NEW YORK– The World Series is upon us as we arrive at the pinnacle of MLBs postseason, where legends are born and legacies are mounted. The road to glory ends with the Fall Classic beginning this Friday evening in Houston, Texas, at Minute Maid Park. To determine the final team standing, Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and the red-hot ‘Fightin’ Philadelphia Phillies will go toe-to-toe against Jeremy Peña, Yordan Álvarez and the dominant Houston Astros.
The best four-of-seven series kicks off with impressive storylines across the board; however, one major headline many aren’t mentioning is the overload of talent from the Dominican Republic. A combined total of eight Phillies and Astros players are Dominican natives, making for the most in a World Series since 2015. The eight players are provided below.
Jean Segura; San Juan, Seranthony Domínguez; Esperanza Valverde Mao, Framber Valdez; Palenque, Jeremy Peña; Santo Domingo (ALCS MVP), Bryan Abreu; Santo Domingo Centro, Cristian Javier; Santo Domingo, Héctor Neris; Villa Altagracia, Rafael Montero; Higuerito
Interesting to see how each name has played a significant role in their teams postseason success. But back to the anticipated battle at hand for Friday night.
Viewing Game 1’s pitching matchup, leads you to a comparison of a competitive blackjack game. Each competitor is going for it all as the first opportunity presents itself with an authentic ace included in their hand.
The two-time Cy Young award winner, and perhaps, a third in the near future, Justin Verlander will take the mound for Houston in his eighth career World Series outing as the Phillies trot out right-hander Aaron Nola, who prospered into a postseason hero for Philadelphia this October.
And the significance of winning Game 1 in the World Series makes it apparent why both managers Dusty Baker and Rob Thomson decided to go this route. Since 2000, the team that wins Game 1 of the World Series, went on to win the series 18/22 times (81.8%).
To start off, Verlander is no newbie to the bright lights of October, but holds a 0-6 record in seven career World Series outings, owning a 5.68 ERA with 35 hits allowed across 38.0 innings. The 39-year-old will have a grueling challenge against a Phillies lineup, hitting .237/.307/.442 this postseason with 16 home runs.
“They’re a great lineup,” Verlander said about the Phillies. “Obviously they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t. But I think they have a lot of power. They cover a lot of different pitch types. They make you — you can’t just have one game plan and work it through the entire lineup. They have a bunch of professional hitters. So I think they’re one of the best lineups in baseball this season.”
In their magical run, Philadelphia sparked into an offensive tangent, consistently putting the ball in play and forcing pressure on the opposition with a blend of the long ball.
To zone in on the individual matchups, let’s take a look at how Verlander fares against Phillies hitters in his career.
Jean Segura: .286 (4-14) 1 HR, 2 RBI, 3 K
Nick Castellanos: .125 (1-8) 1 RBI, 4 K
On the other side, Phillies ace Aaron Nola, whose anticipated for this moment his whole life, will be making his first career World Series start. The 29-year-old has posted a 2-1 record and 3.12 ERA this postseason with 18 strikeouts across 17.1 innings pitched. Everything and some you could ask for out of your top gun in the starting rotation.
Aaron Nola pitched into the 7th inning and allowed 0 earned runs 🔥 (Responsible for runner on 1st base)
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 14, 2022
A key factor into this matchup is how Nola handles the Astros offensive threats, especially their 1-5 hitters. Prior to the playoffs on October 3rd against Houston at Minute Maid Park, Nola was a force to be reckoned with, tossing 6.2 innings on two hits and nine strikeouts. But the postseason is a whole different ball game.
“I’ll watch some video tonight,” Nola said yesterday leading up to Game 1. “See what I need to do. I don’t know if it’s going to be the same exact lineup that I faced a couple weeks ago. But I just, at the end of the day, I just need to execute my pitches and try to get that leadoff guy out.”
“It’s a good lineup. They do a lot of things well. They hit for average, hit for power. They’re scrappy,” he added.
Standing with an undefeated 7-0 record this postseason, Houston is hitting .227/.300/.408 with 12 HR. Yet another ball club, who performs and executes on all aspects within the offense.
Despite the small sample sizes, here’s a look at how Nola performed against the Astros in his career.
Jose Altuve: .400 (2-5) 2 K
Christian Vázquez: .286 (2-7) 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K
Yordan Álvarez: .333 (1-3) 2 K
Alex Bregman: .000 (0-2)
A Game 1 pitching duel for the ages, since we have a 39-year-old future Hall of Famer in Verlander competing against one of the top arms across MLB in the 29-year-old Nola. The countdown to Game 1 hits zeros tonight, with first pitch set for 8:03 ET.
“I’m excited, nervous, anxious,” Verlander said leading up to Game 1.
“For myself, yeah, it’s a big stage and it’s a World Series,” Nola said. “But, it’s just another game when we step out on that field.”
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Robert Rizzo writes for Latino Sports
Follow on Twitter: @RobertRiz994
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