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Just enjoy the ride: Phillies 6, Astros 5

The Phillies take an improbable 1-0 lead in the World Series

2022 World Series Game 1: Philadelphia Phillies v. Houston Astros
J.T. Realmuto helped stake the Phillies to a 1-0 lead in the World Series
Photo by Logan Riely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

It didn’t feel like a win. When the Astros took an early 5-0 lead, many Phillies fans were already looking ahead to Saturday. When Jeremy Pena poked a ball to right field with a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth, we should have begun mourning what could have been. And when David Robertson had to protect a one-run lead by facing the heart of the Astros’ order in the bottom of the 10th, there’s no way the Phillies should have emerged victorious.

But the Phillies somehow came back from that 5-0 deficit. Nick Castellanos made a tough catch in right field. And David Robertson was able to record three outs in the tenth without allowing a run. Combined with a heroic hitting performance from J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies somehow took a 1-0 lead in the World Series by defeating the Astros 6-5.

It looked bad early on. Justin Verlander was sharp and Aaron Nola didn’t. Verlander retired the first ten Phillies batters he faced, while Nola couldn’t locate his curveball, and couldn’t keep Kyle Tucker in the park.

Faced with a 5-0 score, many Phillies fans started hoping that Zack Wheeler would be able to salvage a split in Houston. But you know who wasn’t looking ahead to Saturday? The Phillies.

They finally got a couple of runners on base against Verlander, and thanks to RBI hits by Nick Castellanos and Alec Bohm, the lead was cut to two.

Those runs didn’t just break up the shutout; They also seemed to pierce the seeming invincibility the Astros had up to that point. Nola retired the Astros in order the following inning, and then the Phillies got their first two hitters aboard in the top of the fifth. With one out, J.T. Realmuto came to the plate.

Now pitching in a tie game, and seemingly having settled down, it seemed like Nola could have pitched a little longer. But Rob Thomson disagreed, and with one out in the fifth, he turned to the bullpen. I haven’t agreed with every move Thomson has made this postseason, especially when it comes to removing pitchers from the game. But I’ll be darned if he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing.

Jose Alvarado relieved Nola and retired the next three batters. It felt like he might have been able to go longer, but Thomson called upon Zach Eflin who covered 1.1 scoreless innings. Making a bullpen appearance between starts, Ranger Suarez was called upon to record two outs, and then Seranthony Dominguez covered the final 1.2 innings of regulation.

The game almost ended in the bottom of the ninth. With two outs, Jose Altuve’s pop up somehow found grass in centerfield. Jeremy Pena followed with a similarly weakly hit pop-up that almost dropped in for a game-winning single. But for the second time in these playoffs, Nick Castellanos made a game-saving catch.

With the game in extra innings, the Phillies - or at least J.T. Realmuto - didn’t waste much time in taking the lead.

The Phillies had the lead, but it felt like protecting it would be the hard part. Thomson called upon David Robertson to close it out, and to the surprise of nobody, it wasn’t easy. Alex Bregman had a one-out double, and after another out, Yuli Gurriel followed with a walk to put the winning run on base.

When a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, disaster seemed imminent. But Robertson finally got Aledmys Diaz to ground out to third, and the Phillies escaped with an improbable 6-5 win.

The Phillies are now three wins from a championship. They’ll have Zack Wheeler on the mound on Saturday with an opportunity to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series. I can’t predict what is going to happen, but it seems likely that Thomson will make at least one decision I disagree with, and something improbable will happen in the Phillies’ favor. At this point, I can only suggest that you stop questioning it, and sit back and enjoy the ride.