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A statement heard around baseball: The gritty Phillies battle to win Game 1 of World Series

What a game.

What a Game 1.

What a World Series game.

You heard it all at the conclusion of the 10-inning grit feast as the Philadelphia Phillies snatch Game 1 of the World Series out of the Houston Astros reach with a 6-5 victory at Minute Maid Park Friday night.

You expect nothing less than a hard-fought and anxiety-fueling game from two teams who refuse to let their guards down and hand anyone a win. Instead, Game 1 provided staggering starting pitching but fearless bullpen appearances, dirt-stained defensive plays, and one big hit that tainted a tally mark in the win column for the Phillies.

It started with two blasts from Kyle Tucker assisting the Astros in adding up a 5-0 lead, but it ended with a shot over the right field wall from the bat of J.T. Realmuto to give the Phillies the 6-5 lead they needed to anchor down the win. As Realmuto rounded the bases, a Phillies dugout stood with their heads lifted firmly, mirroring the relentless notion that they will win this game and make the loudest statement of the 2022 season.

“It’s been a different hero every single night. It’s been that way all postseason long,” Realmuto said about his team’s ability to present honorable wins. “Basically, every hitter in our lineup has had their moment where they have come through huge for the team, and they’re one of the main reasons we won that game today. Tonight, I guess tonight was my turn where I came up big in the spots. But it’s been like that all postseason long. It’s been a different hitter every single night coming up for us.”

A wave of orange towels extended from the arms of Astros fans that came to watch a matchup worthy of World Series expectations. But, unlike their foes in the ALCS, the Astros faced a dynamic and persistent Phillies team that came to battle in Game 1 of the 2022 World Series.

After Aaron Nola gave up two home runs to Tucker and an RBI double from the bat of catcher Martín Maldonado over 4.1 innings, Dusty Baker and the Astros felt confident that Justin Verlander would be able to execute through the Phillies lineup. However, Verlander came under heavy offensive fire in the bottom of the third inning, as the Phillies offense struck with a jolt of momentum. An RBI single from Nick Castellanos and a two-run double by Alec Bohm helped ignite an early game rally that put the Phillies on the board against the two-time CY Young award winner.

But it wasn’t until the following inning that the game was given a new slate. At the bottom of the lineup, Phillies’ center fielder Brandon Marsh doubled, and Kyle Schwarber’s walk assisted in Verlander throwing an 81-mph curveball down the middle of the plate to J.T. Realmuto, who clipped the pitch over the head of Yordan Álvarez, bouncing off the left field wall for a two-run double, tying the game at five.

Justin Verlander was relieved by Bryan Abreu after finalizing his eighth World Series start going five innings, giving up five runs on six hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. Verlander’s World Series ERA mounted to a staggering 6.07 after failing to help his team win Game 1.

With the bats finding a way to put runs on the board, both bullpens can be credited for giving the offense a chance to stay in the game.

The Astros bullpen got in and out of trouble after Abreu allowed the Phillies batters to flirt with an opportunity with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning. But Baker’s decision to pull Abreu out of the game for former Phillies pitcher Héctor Neris would prove to be the right move when the 33-year-old veteran struck out Nick Castellanos to end the bases-loaded threat.

The Phillies bullpen showed off their smoking arms when they were given the baton in the middle of the fifth inning and handed it off to José Alvarado, who scorched a six-pitch relief outing, with three of his six pitches topping 100 mph or higher at 102 mph. Alvarado would enter the sixth but handed the baton to Zach Effin, who provided 1.1 innings of relief before Phillies manager Rob Thomson masterfully managed the extended arms by bringing out the solid and husky Ranger Súarez and smooth and fluid Seranthony Domínguez, who took the ball at the tail-end of the game.

The Astros were tempted to end the game with a ninth-inning Game 1 walk-off. Still, after an Altuve single and debatable stolen base, Nick Castellanos made a sliding catch in shallow right field, saving Game 1 and sending the World Series into extra innings for the first time since Game 3 of the 2018 World Series — an 18-inning stretch that ended with the Los Angles Dodgers defeating the Boston Red Sox 3-2.

“Moments like that, you just, on defense, you’re pretty locked in,” Castellanos said, reflecting on his stain-saving grab. “So I felt like I read the swing pretty well, and as soon as I saw the direction of the ball, I felt like I got a good jump on it.”

“When the ball was first hit, I thought it was hit so softly that I didn’t think he was going to get there,” Realmuto reflected on his view of the catch from behind the plate. “I thought the game was over. But then I saw him charging in, coming in hot, and I thought, oh, man, he might have a chance to catch that. And that was the second or third really, really clutch play he’s made for us in the outfield this postseason already that have both won us baseball games. So that play was huge. You can’t say enough about it.”

The game would end with the Phillies entrusting David Roberston with the save. Despite getting into trouble, with the Astros just 90 feet away from tying the game with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, an intense at-bat that included a lean-in hit-by-pitch resulted in Robertson finding pinch-hitter Aldemys Díaz in a challenging situation. Díaz caved on a slider that dropped to the bottom of the plate that was grounded to third baseman Alec Bohm, who wielded the final out to first baseman Rhys Hoskins, closing out the game with a nail-biting victory.

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