Inside look at Phillies-Astros matchups

For the third time in four years the Astros have reached the World Series and face an NL East opponent.

In the previous two, the Astros were upset by the Nationals and Braves — teams that began sluggish and improved later in the season. These Phillies fall into the same mold.

Will it be the Astros, and finally a ring for manager Dusty Baker? Or will the Phillies become the latest NL East team to hoist a world championship flag? Game 1 is Friday night in Houston. The Post’s Mike Puma examines the matchups:

At the plate

Getting on base: The Phillies, who ranked in the middle of the pack during the regular season with a .317 on-base percentage, receive their best production in that category from Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto. Harper (.364) was the only Phillies player with an on-base percentage above .350. Yordan Alvarez (.406) and Jose Altuve (.387) were among the AL’s best at getting on base. Altuve has largely been invisible this postseason, but Alvarez’s impact has been substantial, both getting on base and driving in runs. Alex Bregman led the Astros with 87 walks during the regular season.

Edge: Astros

Bryce Harper and Jose Altuve
Bryce Harper and Jose Altuve
USA TODAY Sports

Power: After leading the NL with 46 homers, Kyle Schwarber blasted another three against the Padres in the NLCS. The Phillies also have Rhys Hoskins, Harper and Realmuto wielding big sticks in an unrelenting lineup of mashers. Alvarez (37 homers) and Kyle Tucker (30 homers) are the Astros’ huge power threats, and Altuve, Bregman and Jeremy Peña all topped 20 homers.

Edge: Phillies

On the basepaths

The Phillies were fifth in MLB with 105 stolen bases, led by Realmuto with 21. Overall, the Phillies had five players in double digits in stolen bases. Harper (11 stolen bases) and Schwarber (10) aren’t shy about running. The Astros weren’t as daring, finishing in the middle of the pack in stolen bases, but Tucker was a threat with 25.

Edge: Phillies

In the field

Infield: The Phillies are hardly the smoothest fielding team, with Hoskins, Jean Segura, Bryson Stott and Alec Bohm. On the corners the Phillies are particularly vulnerable, with Hoskins and Bohm. Peña (who received MVP honors in the ALCS) led MLB shortstops with 16 defensive runs saved, according to the Fielding Bible. The remainder of the Astros’ infield is solid, but unspectacular defensively.

Edge: Astros

Outfield: Schwarber and Nick Castellanos aren’t particularly great on the corners for the Phillies, but Brandon Marsh covers plenty of ground in center and owns a strong throwing arm. Chas McCormick and Jake Meyers are exceptional defensively in center field for the Astros and Tucker is formidable in right. Alvarez has a strong arm in left.

the reasons the Astros' outfield is stronger defensively than the Phillies' outfield is.
Kyle Tucker is one of the reasons the Astros’ outfield is stronger defensively than the Phillies’ outfield is.
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Edge: Astros

Bench

Matt Vierling and Edmundo Sosa serve as late-inning defensive replacements for Schwarber and Bohm, respectively, but neither brings much offense to the equation. The Astros have veterans Trey Mancini, Aledmys Diaz and Christian Vazquez, along with David Hensley and Mauricio Dubon.

Edge: Even

On the mound

Rotation: Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola atop the rotation represent the Phillies’ best hope for success in this series. Both right-handers have dominated at various points in this postseason, led by Wheeler’s 1.38 ERA in two starts against the Padres.

Nola’s best work came in the Wild-Card Series and NLDS. Behind that tandem, there’s left-hander Ranger Suarez and perhaps an opener, unless team brass decides Noah Syndergaard is worthy of a start.

The Astros have depth, with Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers Jr. and Cristian Javier as the probable alignment. The 39-year-old Verlander followed a regular season that will likely earn him his third Cy Young award with a rough start against the Mariners in the ALDS before rebounding into form against the Yankees.

Edge: Astros

Bullpen

Zach Eflin and Syndergaard have moved from the rotation into relief roles and provided a sense of stability for the Phillies, who returned David Robertson from a calf injury in the NLCS. Also, Seranthony Dominguez has pitched to a 1.17 ERA this postseason. Corey Knebel, Jose Alvarado and Brad Hand are other key pieces to a bullpen that has exceeded expectations this postseason. The Astros led MLB with a 2.80 ERA from the bullpen this season. Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu and Rafael Montero are a tough unit leading into closer Ryan Pressly, and Hector Neris has provided another valuable arm.

Edge: Astros

Noah Syndergaard has helped bring stability to the Phillies bullpen in the postseason.
Noah Syndergaard has helped bring stability to the Phillies bullpen in the postseason.
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Manager

Rob Thomson moved into the position on an interim basis after Joe Girardi was fired with the Phillies 22-29. Under Thomson, the Phillies awoke and reached the postseason for the first time since 2011. Thomson’s interim label, not surprisingly, has been removed.

Dusty Baker’s Hall of Fame résumé as a manager includes about everything except a World Series title. The 73-year-old Baker will be managing in his third World Series, after taking the Giants (2002) and Astros (2021) to the brink of glory.

Edge: Astros

Intangibles

The Phillies are wearing Cinderella’s slipper as a team that won only 87 games in the regular season and squeaked into the postseason as the No. 6 seed. Does that momentum carry onto the larger stage — and mirror the upset stories written by the Nationals (2019) and Braves (2021) against the Astros?

Also, the Phillies’ home crowd will not be outdone. The World Series is old hat for some of these Astros players, but the organization’s gradual turnover also means a new experience for others. The Astros won a tainted title in 2017, when players were found to have used illegal methods to steal signs. Winning this series would bring an air of legitimacy to an organization that has been superior to most in developing talent.

Edge: Phillies


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