What to expect in the 2022 World Series

What to expect in the 2022 World Series
The World Series commences on October 28th
The World Series commences on October 28th
When Freddie Freeman received the ball at first base last season to win the World Series for the Atlanta Braves against the Houston Astros, many fans would have backed the Texan side to return in 2022. Many, though, would not have envisaged the Philadelphia Phillies being their opponents.

On Friday night in Houston, the American League and National League champions will meet in a best of seven series to decide whether it will be the Astros or the Phillies that will be crowned World Series champions. 

The journeys for both teams could not be more different. Houston, off the back of their disappointment in the same stage last year, have continued to be dominant. They had the best winning record in the American League in the regular season, and have not taken their foot off the gas in the playoffs, sweeping aside the Seattle Mariners and then the New York Yankees without losing a game.

The Phillies, on the other hand, have had a more trying year. Their record of 87 wins and 75 losses snuck them into the playoffs as a wildcard, finishing one game ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers. But, they have played out of their skins in the postseason, knocking over the St Louis Cardinals in the wildcard round, before beating the reigning champions, Atlanta, 3-1. It set up a tie with the San Diego Padres and they only lost once, winning 4-1 to take them to the World Series. 

The match-up between these two ball clubs is an intriguing one - Houston are the favourites, given their experienced postseason line-up with the likes of Justin Verlander pitching and the bats of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez. But, their opponents also carry some fire in their side with the one of the best hitters on the planet, Bryce Harper, who is backed up well by Rhys Hoskins and JT Realmuto.

Here, we will give you the players to watch out for and what could happen in the biggest of all baseball series.

The Pitchers

For a lot of the roster expected to be named by the Astros can they have 'been there, done that'. Their longevity of success has to be applauded - if you discount the cheating scandal that tainted their 2017 World Series win - and no one stands out quite like Verlander, when we talk about longevity.

At 39, he will do something no one else has ever done. According to MLB.com, only 16 pitchers have thrown in the postseason at his age - but no one has done it in a World Series.

The incredible thing about the former Cy Young winner is that he is not slowing down. His velocity on his hardest pitches are not in decline, something you would normally from a pitcher of his age, and his command of his various weapons is as good as ever. Seattle may have got to him in his first postseason start - 10 hits in four innings - but in his most recent game against the Yankees, he was sublime, striking out 11 and giving away just one earned run as his side won that game 4-2.

In both, it was the opening game of the series. It is likely that Verlander will start game one and could then start game five or six depending on how results go. If the Phillies can get after him a la Seattle, it could tip the balance in their favour. Easier said than done, though.

Due to their scorching form, Houston do have a fairly well-rested bullpen, which will play into their hands as the series progresses. They are also coming off five days of rest, meaning all of their arms will be raring to go.

The Phillies' pitching has also had four days off, but they have played three extra games, meaning they will have a slightly harder time manoeuvring their men in tight situations.

From their list of starters, one that will need to be successful is Zack Wheeler. He has been the best pitcher in their team and in his last two outings has shown why he is feared. Pitching 13 innings, he struck out 16, whilst giving up just two earned runs. If he repeats that sort of form, the Phillies will in with a shout.

Houston will fancy their starters to give them control in each game, but there are plenty of batters who can make a difference in this series.

The Bats

If Houston have a line-up that can get you runs from anywhere, the Phillies will be relying on one man to give them a chance. Harper has been known for many years to be one of the best hitters in the world and this postseason he has shown that.

With five home runs - mostly to opposite field - and 11 runs batted in (RBIs), he has been the face of their line-up this postseason. When they have needed a hit or a run, like in the eighth inning of game five against the Padres, he has delivered and if his reaction to winning that game is anything to go by, he will be incredibly fired up for his first World Series

There are other bats in the line-up who can hit it long - Kyle Schwarber is top of that list - but no-one will be feared more than Harper by Astros fans. If he can continue producing in big moments, it could finally seal his place at the top tier of this sport.

Houston's hitters may not be as dynamic as Harper, but they get the job done all the same. One player making waves this postseason is Jeremy Pena. The rookie has 10 hits from 33 plate appearances, and his speed on the bases is frightening - a recipe for runs in a series that will be decided by these marginal plays.

Elsewhere, they have plenty of reliable hitters who know exactly how to play these games, something that can't be said for all of the Phillies, and it will be surprising if they aren't motivated to improve on last year's World Series defeat. Look out for the likes of Alvarez and Bregman to fire. Altuve, who has the second most home runs in the postseason of all time, has had a quiet time recently, but he is a man for a big stage - don't bet against him making some vital plays throughout the next week.

Who will win?

Houston have to be favourites for the pennant. They have experience and a team of wiley veterans who are defensively sound with a pitching staff superior to their opponents. If they can put that all together then it's hard to look past them. However, the Braves showed in 2021 that it is possible to see off the Astros in the World Series, so the Phillies have a plan to work with.

Harper will be key for them. If he can find those gaps and keep getting those RBIs, they will always be in with a shout. Expect some tight pitching duels that will bring tension to each game.

It may not be the World Series that many were expecting, but it shaping up to be another intriguing Fall Classic. 

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