HOUSTON — Framber Valdez struck out, Jordan Alvarez sent a baseball to the moon, and as a result Astros beat Phyllis 4–1 in Game 6 of the World Series to win his second championship in franchise history.
It was the fourth time in the last six seasons that the Astros have reached the World Series, but in their previous two trips, against the Nationals in 2019 and last year against the Braves, they were upset by two underdog teams they didn’t expect to get as far as they could. This time, however, they came back with three straight wins after falling behind in the series, 2–1, each with key moments from some of the team’s younger stars who weren’t around for the first title in ’17. In addition to Valdes and Alvarez, this group of newer stars includes rookie Jeremy Peña, right fielder Christian Javier and center fielder Chas McCormick, among others.
Here are three immediate takeaways from Houston’s championship game:
Zack Wheeler’s pull is haunting the Phillies
Let’s get all the usual caveats out of the way up front: Hindsight is 20/20. It is much easier to make a decision after it backfires than to make it in the moment. There is no way of knowing how the comparative hypothesis might have developed here. More. Phillies manager Rob Thomson’s choice to pull Zach Wheeler instead of Jose Alvarado seemed questionable even when it was happening, and, well, you saw the result.
Wheeler looked extremely sharp in his first few innings of work. To give him two extra days of rest, Philadelphia opted to start him in Game 6 instead of Game 5, and it seemed to work. Wheeler came out throwing harder Saturday than at any point in his last start. After his fastball hit 95 mph in Game 2, he didn’t dip below 98 once in the first inning of Game 6, and he was delivering.
But then Wheeler found himself in trouble as the Phillies clung to a 1–0 lead in the sixth inning. After being hit by a batter and getting a force out, Wheeler allowed a single to Peña. That put runners on first and third with one out and one of the most feared hitters in the league coming to the plate: Jordan Alvarez.
Yet there was a lot of context that complicated the situation. Of course, Alvarez is an incredibly talented hitter that Wheeler would be facing for a third time … but the left-hander has struggled over the last few weeks and had done nothing in his first two appearances tonight. Wheeler, meanwhile, was only at 70 pitches, and his velocity had barely dropped. (The last fastball he threw to Peña was 97.4 mph: faster than anything he’d thrown at any point in his last start.) Wheeler was probably nearing the end of his night, regardless . But pulling him here—instead of giving him a chance to get out of the jam—seemed premature.
Thomson’s aggressive bullpen management was a key part of what kept the Phillies playing so deep in November. But that choice seemed particularly dubious.
Jordan Alvarez is the truth
And here’s what happened when Alvarado went in against Alvarez.
I’m not sure there’s much to say about that home run other than it was hit so hard that the official distance of 450 feet looks like a typo and (obviously) it won the game.
Jeremy Peña makes the difference
Peña received a few scattered “MVP” chants at Minute Maid Park on Saturday: tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but the rookie shortstop did his best this week.
With two singles — including the one that was a go-ahead run — and some slick work in the field, he got the job done, just as he has all series. He became the first rookie to have a hit in each of his first six World Series games. In his three games after the Astros trailed 2–1 in the series, Peña went 7-for-13 (.538) with a homer and three runs scored.
Not bad for a rookie.
More MLB coverage:
• Astros win the World Series to secure a spot as the Premier MLB Team
• Verlander caps epic comeback year with first World Series victory
• Trey Mancini saves the Astros with his glove as his bat fails him
• Christian Javier rides his ‘Invisi-Ball’ to a World Series Storybook victory
• Astros backup backstop earns huge chunk of no-hitter history