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Here’s a Curveball: What About Pressly for Series M.V.P.?

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PHILADELPHIA — The Houston Astros have recorded 135 outs this World Series. Within the span of 24 pitches Thursday night, the 4 most pivotal were thrown by the identical man.

That man is Ryan Pressly, the Houston Astros’ spin-rate dynamo and the team’s longest-tenured reliever. His mission is to befuddle hitters along with his hellacious curveball, and thru the primary five games against Philadelphia, no player has enhanced his team’s possibilities of becoming champions greater than Pressly.

His performance in Houston’s 3-2 victory in Game 5, aided by some dazzling defense in his five-out save, evoked so many others across Pressly’s postseason profession with the Astros, who’re 22-3 when he pitches — often in high-leverage situations — since 2020.

As he had in six of his previous eight outings this postseason, Pressly entered Thursday’s game within the eighth or ninth inning with the rating tied or the Astros leading by two or fewer runs. In each instance, he kept the sport locked or preserved the lead. He has stranded all 4 inherited runners, including the 2 who greeted him within the eighth in Game 5.

With one out, runners on first and third and Houston leading by 3-2, Pressly, a right-hander, struck out Brandon Marsh on three pitches, all sliders, then escaped when Trey Mancini smothered Kyle Schwarber’s grounder at first. Based on Baseball Reference, that strikeout was not only essentially the most pivotal out of this World Series but additionally of the last six — a span of 1,976 outs. It added 9.2 percentage points of championship win probability.

Over the course of the Series, Pressly has increased the Astros’ probability of defeating the Phillies by 32.5 percentage points, based on Baseball Reference; third baseman Alex Bregman has added the next-most, 11 points, with shortstop Jeremy Peña right behind him, at 9.9.

“Simply because it’s a bit bit louder and there’s more lights and there’s more cameras and it’s on the most important stage, it don’t matter — it’s the identical game,” Pressly said after Game 5. “The plate’s still 60 feet 6 inches away, still got to make quality pitches. While you do this, once you slow your heartbeat down, you’re going to have success.”

Pressly leads Houston in appearances since 2018, when the Astros, enamored by the spin rate that created such ferocious movement on his breaking pitches, plucked him from Minnesota on the trade deadline. His charge was to throw more sliders and curveballs and fewer fastballs.

In 2022, along with his curveball traveling a league-best 3,272 revolutions per minute, he threw the very best percentage of breaking pitches — 64 percent — of his profession. In a bullpen featuring just one left-hander, Pressly’s curveball and slider help him neutralize left-handed hitters. Through the regular season, left-handed batters had a lower on-base plus slugging percentage against him (.513) than right-handed hitters did.

“The blokes that have a look at us and evaluate us, they see things that they’re in a position to tell us and make us higher, and that’s what this organization does,” Pressly said after Game 4. “They find the things that we’re really good at, and so they attempt to expand on it and make us higher on the things that we’re really good at.”

The World Series Most Beneficial Player Award tends to go to the most effective hitter on the victorious team, because it has in 15 of the last 18 postseasons, unless a starting pitcher — Madison Bumgarner in 2014, Cole Hamels in 2008 — flashes such durability and dominance that he subverts the paradigm.

For a reliever to merit strong consideration, though, he must outperform everyone else — and by an absurd margin — on a cumulative basis, and in essentially the most pressurized of situations. No closer has won since Mariano Rivera in 1999, back before managers avoided deploying elite relievers at a game’s inflection point.

But when the Astros defeat the Phillies considered one of the subsequent two nights in Houston, perhaps that streak will end.

Tyler Kepner contributed reporting.

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