Comeback Phillies, powerhouse Astros meet in World Series tonight

by Jacob Fuller

Rob Issa, FISM News

 

The Philadelphia Phillies were struggling in May, losing games at a frustrating pace and seemingly headed toward another losing season with the largest payroll in team history when bench coach Rob Thomson replaced manager Joe Girardi.

Now, they’re four wins away from a championship.

Thomson will become the first Canadian-born manager to lead a team in the World Series when the Phillies face the Houston Astros on Friday night. Games 1 and 2 will be at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

The 59-year-old Thomson would rather talk about the team than himself, but he’s a big reason why the Phillies went from underachieving to National League champions.

The front office is happy to praise the manager.

“He’s been fantastic. He’s more than you could even ask for. What he’s accomplished, he’s just brought us together. He’s provided a steady hand,” Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said of Thomson. “He’s very knowledgeable, he’s low key. But he also, if you don’t do something well, he’ll let you know about it in his own fashion. He communicates so well, and he leads so well.”

Thomson spent 28 seasons in the New York Yankees organization. He was on Girardi’s staff for 10 of those seasons, including New York’s last World Series visit and title in 2009. When the Phillies entered the postseason, Thomson was still labeled “interim” manager until the team gave him a two-year contract before going 9-2 against St. Louis, Atlanta, and San Diego to reach this point.

“I treat people with respect and I treat everybody equally, whether you’re a rookie or a 20-year veteran. I think people respect that,” Thomson said of his managing style. “I think there’s so many things I’ve learned over the course of the year I don’t think I can put, pinpoint one or two things that are most important. But I think just the respect factor that I have for the players and how I treat them has been the most important thing and probably the best thing that I do.”

The Phillies are led by two-time NL Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper, All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, and slugger Kyle Schwarber on offense. Aaron Nola, who starts Game 1, and Zack Wheeler are the two aces atop the rotation.

The Houston Astros are back in a familiar spot, aiming to give Dusty Baker his first World Series title as a manager.

The Astros are in the World Series for the fourth time in six years and seeking their second title. Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and rookie Jeremy Peña lead Houston’s offense. Veteran Justin Verlander will take the mound to pitch Game 1. Led by closer Ryan Pressly and former Phillies closer Hector Neris, the Astros had the best bullpen ERA in the regular season and the relievers have been even better in the postseason.

“If I win one, I want to win two,” Baker said. “So you got to win one first, and then we’ll work on number two at that time.”

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