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Kaz's Korner

Let's hope Phillies show Astros some brotherly love

The first two games of the 2022 World Series went the opposite way of what was supposed to happen in a two-game series.

Ordinarily, it is the visiting team that hopes to leave town with a 50-50 split. But in last weekend’s two games it was the Houston Astros who hoped to win Game Two, so they could split the series. The Phillies returned home invigorated with the split.

The three-game series that ends tonight in Philadelphia could very well spell the end of the 2022 World Series if one of the two teams sweeps the three-game set. But I don’t believe that will happen, although the Astros are much deeper in the pitching department than Philadelphia.

Although strong pitching wins most World Series, I believe the Phillies might hold an edge on Houston in the hitting department.

The Astros won 106 games during the regular season by scoring early and then letting their major league’s best bullpen hold that lead, which very often were just a couple of runs. Many times their feeble bats wouldn’t come to life until the late innings, but thanks to the strong bullpen, the opponents’ lead usually wasn’t more than a couple of runs.

But Friday’s opening game with ace Justin Verlander on the mound was very unusual, to say the least. Houston jumped out to a 5-0 lead—thanks to two home runs by Kyle Tucker—after three innings. In most of his starts during the regular season, Verlander would thank the baseball gods for five runs and go on to win the game 99 per cent of the time.

But this is the World Series where strange things can happen and often-times do. Perhaps Verlander was pressing extra hard to protect his five-run lead and strayed from his usual demeanor because he has started eight World Series games in his 17-year career, but has yet to be credited for winning one.

In the top of the fifth inning Manager Dusty Baker was in a mental bind after Verlander misplayed a comebacker to him that should have been an easy inning-ending double play and probably should have taken his ace out of the game with the Astros’ lead now 5-3.

But Baker knew Verlander would not be credited with the mound victory without pitching five complete innings. So, he left him in there, despite the fact his pitcher was missing his targets and seemed unusually rattled.

With runners on first and second, Verlander hung a curve that Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto laced into the gap in left-center, scoring both runners that tied the score 5-5.

Baker still didn’t use the hook on Verlander, who got the next two outs to end the inning. He probably was hoping the Astros would break the tie in the bottom of the fifth inning, go on to win the game with Verlander still getting credited with his first World Series win.

But as we old-timers used to say “Baseball is a funny game,” and that proved to be the case here as both bullpens shut down their opponents, putting the game into extra innings with the score still tied at 5-5.

Baker had used most of his ace relievers so he put usual starter Luis Garcia—who pitched five innings and got the win against Seattle in the 18-inning marathon that punched the Astros ticket to the World Series--to pitch the top of the 10th inning.

Garcia battled his first hitter—nemesis Realmuto—to a full count until the good-hitting catcher hit an opposite-field fly ball that Minute Maid Park couldn’t hold for a home run that spelled the difference and gave the visitors a 6-5 win and first blood in the Series.

Of the 598 teams that jumped out to 5-0 or better leads, only 18 in MLB history went on to lose the game. And it also was the first 10th-inning home run since Carlton Fisk turned the trick in the 1975 World Series.

Fortunately, the Houston Astros have two pitchers that can be referred to as aces. The other, Framber Valdez, successfully protected the Astros’ early 5-0 lead in Game Two better than Verlander did in Game One and was credited with a 5-2 win which knotted the series at 1-1.

Verlander will probably pitch today’s Game Five with another chance to get that long-awaited first World Series victory. He very well could be pitching the game that will win the series for the Astros, or be trying to get the series back to Houston with a 2-3 record.

KWICKIES…When the surging No. 2 Tennessee Vols travel to take on the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs Saturday it will be the first time since 1951 that the two teams will play as ranked opponents. But it is the 25th regular-season game matching the Associated Press’ No. 1 and No. 2 teams.

And speaking of this week’s AP College Football top 25 Poll, Georgia retains its No. 1 status, while Tennessee and Ohio State are deadlocked at No. 2, No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Clemson, No. 6 Alabama, No. 7 TCU and No. 8 Oregon remained the same while No. 9 Southern Cal moved up one spot and No. 10 UCLA jumped up two notches. No other Texas teams are on the poll while LSU moved up three places to No. 15 and Tulane jumped four spots to No. 19.

Killeen Shoemaker upped its record to 7-2 Friday with a 21-7 win over Killeen. That’s not a bad job for the Greywolves head coach and West Orange-Stark alumni Toby Foreman who couldn’t even get an interview for the Mustangs head coaching position from the administrative regime.

Louisville forced Wake Forest into eight second-half turnovers Saturday and won 48-21. Wake Forest is the first team in more than 15 years to commit eight turnovers in a half.

Arch Manning will enroll at Texas University in Jan. 2023 according to The Athletic after he completes a brilliant senior season at the same high school that his uncles Eli and Peyton starred in football.

The Nebraska Cornhuskers are 3-15 in their last 18 games that were decided by seven points or less.

The Kansas City Royals announced Monday that they hired Matt Quatraro as their new manager for the 2023 major league baseball season. Quatraro served as the bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays since 2018 and will assume his first job as an MLB manager.

JUST BETWEEN US…Just a few notes about the National Football League as the season passes the halfway mark this week: You can see the NFL’s best and worst teams in action tomorrow when the Houston Texans travel to play the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles. The game will be shown on the Amazon Network… Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the league with touchdown passes in his last 27 games…When the Chicago Bears rushed for 240 yards on 49 carries against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, it marked the first time since 1968 that they eclipsed the 200-yard barrier. But the Cowboys still won handily 49-29…Tennessee’s bulldozing running back Derrick Henry is the only player in NFL history with 200-plus yards rushing in three consecutive games against the same opponent (Houston Texans). He also tied an NFL record with his sixth career 200-plus-ysrd rushing game…Detroit has allowed 24 or more points in nine straight games…When the New England Patriots nipped the New York Jets 22-17 Sunday, it moved Head Coach Bill Belichick into second place all-time with 325 wins including playoff victories.


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