Four Players To Watch In The World Series

The Houston Astros have been the perfect team in the postseason. The Philadelphia Phillies were the imperfect team in the regular season.

They meet in the World Series, which begins Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The Astros have gone 7-0 in the playoffs. They swept the Seattle Mariners in three games in an American League Division Series then polished off the New York Yankees in four straight games in the American League Championship Series.

The Phillies, meanwhile, were the last of the 12 teams to reach Major League Baseball’s expanded postseason field. Their 87-75 regular-season record was the worst of all the qualifiers, and they were eight games under .500 at the end of May.

However, the Phillies have gotten hot in October, winning nine of 11 postseason games. They swept the St. Louis Cardinals in two games in a National League Wild Card Series, beat the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves in four games in a National League Division Series then downed the San Diego Padres in five games in the National League Championship Series.

Here is a look at four players to watch in the World Series:

Bryce Harper, Phillies

One of the biggest knocks on Harper was he never was part of a team that won a postseason series in his first 10 years in the major leagues. The Washington Nationals captured the World Series in 2019, the season after Harper signed a 10-year, $330-million contract with the Phillies, the largest ever given to a free agent in baseball history.

However, Harper has shined in this postseason, and no one has been more responsible in getting the Phillies into the World Series for the first time since 2009. He has gone 18 for 43 (.419) with six doubles, five home runs and 11 RBIs.

In the clinching Game 5 of the NLCS, Harper provided one of the biggest moments in franchise history. His two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning off Padres reliever Robert Suarez put the Phillies ahead 4-3 and they went on to win by that score.

Limited to 99 games in the regular season because of a broken thumb, Harper hit .286/.364/.514 with 18 home runs and 11 stolen bases. He began the season in his customary position of right field, but an elbow injury has limited him to designated hitter duty since April 17.

Kyle Schwarber, Phillies

The Phillies signed the hulking left fielder to a four-year, $79-million contract as a free agent once the lockout ended in March. He has been worth the money in the first season of the deal.

Schwarber hit 46 home runs in 155 games to lead the NL. He also had a .218/.323/.504 slash line while driving in 94 runs.

Schwarber is the epitome of the modern-day offensive player. He bats leadoff despite his stocky build and manager Rob Thomson kept Schwarber at the top of the lineup even though he had a .218 batting average and led the major leagues with 200 strikeouts.

In the postseason, Schwarber is 7 for 35 (.200) with three home runs, all coming in the NLCS. The first homer was a memorable one, a 488-foot shot in Game 1 that landed in the upper deck in right field at San Diego’s Petco Park.

Jose Altuve, Astros

The diminutive second baseman went hitless in his first 25 at-bats of these playoffs, setting an MLB record for futility to begin a postseason. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Dal Maxvill went 0 for 22 in the 1968 World Series.

However, Altuve showed signs of heating up late in the ALCS with three hits in his last seven at-bats. That certainly isn’t a surprise as Altuve has often been an October hero with 23 career postseason home runs in 86 games.

A three-time AL batting champion and eight-time All-Star, Altuve had another big year for the Astros during the regular season. He hit .300/.387/.533 in 141 games with 28 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 19 attempts.

Altuve is finishing the fifth season of a seven-year, $163.5-million contract extension that took effect in 2018. He continues to provide strong dividends on the Astros’ investment.

Jeremy Pena, Astros

The Astros took a calculated gamble when they decided to allow shortstop Carlos Correa to leave in free agency during the offseason. Correa was the first overall selection in the 2012 amateur draft and long the heart and soul of the organization as the Astros rose from laughingstock to AL power.

However, Pena has done nothing to make the Astros’ regret their decision. Not only has the rookie ably replaced Correa but helped Houston to its fourth World Series appearance in six years.

Pena hit .253/.289/.426 with 22 homers and 11 steals in 136 games during the regular season. The son of former major league second baseman Geronimo Pena played very well in the field as he had 15 defensive runs saved.

The 25-year-old Pena was the MVP of the ALCS when he went 6 for 17 (.353) with two doubles and two homers.