PHILADELPHIA — For baseball fans here with keen ears and long memories, the cry is perpetually lodged of their brain: “Everybody hits — hoo-HOO!” A Phillies fan within the 200 level at old Veterans Stadium would shout it when the house team rallied. Harry Kalas, the voice of the Phillies in those days, actually referenced it in his Hall of Fame speech.
Whoever he was, that fan — or fans; perhaps there have been imitators — likely saw many games in 1983, the last 12 months the Phillies wore powder blue uniforms within the World Series. It was a road style then, unlike Thursday, when the Phillies went retro for a Game 5 thriller against the Houston Astros at Residents Bank Park.
The players looked sharp, but their imitation went too far. The Astros escaped with a 3-2 victory, holding the Phillies to 6 hits the night after a combined no-hitter. The Phillies trail on this World Series, three games to 2, and head to Houston with a .174 team average. Their mark was similarly dismal — .195 — in a five-game World Series loss to Baltimore in 1983.
Sometimes, indeed, everybody hits. But now — because it was in that long-ago World Series — no person seems to do it within the clutch. The Phillies went 0 for 20 with runners in scoring position against the Astros from the fifth inning of Game 1 until the eighth inning of Game 5.
“We’re striking out greater than we normally would in those situations, and that’s a testament to how good their pitchers are,” catcher J.T. Realmuto said. “You see they’re doing a greater job of putting the ball in play when runners are in scoring position, and we’re just striking out a bit bit an excessive amount of. If we’re going to achieve success in the following two games, we’re going to should give you the option to place the ball in play when guys are on the market.”
The Phillies have struck out 59 times within the World Series, the Astros 48. After hitting .269 with runners in scoring position through the regular season — trailing only the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Astros — the Phillies are 5 for 29 in that situation on this World Series.
“You wouldn’t be human if you happen to weren’t frustrated,” said the Phillies’ Kyle Schwarber, who ripped a leadoff homer but ended the sixth and eighth innings with two runners on base.
“I believe the largest thing is that everybody’s going to flush this out and we’re going to should be able to go there for Game 6. You may be frustrated, sure, but we get an off day, we get a bit reboot and we’re going to see where this goes.”
It goes back to Minute Maid Park on Saturday with the Phillies facing elimination for the primary time this postseason. They’d never trailed in any of their 4 series — against St. Louis, Atlanta, San Diego or Houston — until Ryan Pressly finished off a five-out save on Thursday.
“We’ve faced adversity all 12 months,” said outfielder Nick Castellanos, who grounded to shortstop because the potential winning run to finish Game 5. “What a greater storybook ending than if we will go there and win this in Game 7?”
The Phillies will attempt to turn out to be the fourth team to clinch a championship at Minute Maid Park, after the 2005 Chicago White Sox, the 2019 Washington Nationals and last 12 months’s Atlanta Braves. The Nationals won Games 6 and seven, a feat the Phillies must match to return with a trophy.
“We’re not the primary team to be in this example, right?” said Bryce Harper, who reached base 4 times on Thursday. “This game’s been happening for a very long time. It’s really a superb team over there, we all know that.”
The Astros have asserted themselves with stingy pitching — their relievers have a 0.98 earned run average within the World Series, and starters Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier have allowed one run in 12 ⅓ innings. Javier worked the primary six innings of the Game 4 no-hitter, and Valdez, who won Game 2, will start again on Saturday with a probability to clinch the title.
Valdez’s unusual curveball/sinker combination stifled the Phillies after their 10-inning comeback win within the opener. He also beat them on the ultimate day of the regular season.
“Any time you’re taking more at-bats off a pitcher, you turn out to be more aware of him and all of their tendencies,” Castellanos said, using the word — tendencies — that Valdez selected to explain his habit of rubbing his pitching hand on the palm of his glove hand.
“We’re definitely going to be more prepared. The more times that you could take a test, the higher probability you’ve of getting a superb test rating.”
Perhaps so, but Valdez might be the worst possible matchup for a Phillies lineup built on power, because he’s durable and infrequently gives up homers. Valdez led the American League in innings (201 ⅓) and fewest home runs per nine innings (0.5) this season.
The Phillies won the opener on a homer by Realmuto and connected five times in Game 3. But Realmuto and the slugging first baseman Rhys Hoskins combined for seven strikeouts in Game 5, and the Astros stymied the Phillies with slick plays by first baseman Trey Mancini to finish the eighth and center fielder Chas McCormick for the second out of the ninth.
McCormick chased down Realmuto’s deep drive and caught it against the out-of-town scoreboard in right center, tumbling to the dirt while holding up his prize. It was near the spot where the Phillies’ center fielder, Brandon Marsh, had made a first-inning error on Jose Altuve’s double.
“That’s a tricky wall to play — it hits the mesh, it goes straight down; it hits the brick, it bounces 100 feet off,” Marsh said. “I took my probability on getting near it hitting the mesh so Altuve couldn’t get to 3rd. It bounced off, I missed the ball, and he got to 3rd anyway.”
With Altuve at third, Jeremy Peña drove him in with a single through the drawn-in infield. With runners on the corners within the eighth, Hoskins charged a Yordan Alvarez grounder but let it kick off his glove; he got an out at first base to avoid an error, however the Astros scored their third run.
“We just should go and play higher, that’s all it really comes right down to,” Realmuto said. “We have now to make the plays after they’re there to be made, and we’ve got to place the ball in play with runners in scoring position.”
The Astros were actually worse than the Phillies with runners in scoring position on Thursday; they were 1 for 11, and the Phillies were 1 for 7. However the Phillies’ futility stands out as a mini-slump on the worst possible time.
“That’s baseball,” Manager Rob Thomson said. “It’s the ebbs and flows of the sport. Sometimes you undergo times while you don’t hit with runners in scoring position after which three days later everybody’s getting hits.”
Everybody hits. The Phillies cannot afford to attend three more days, but they might love to listen to those echoes again.