Mandatory Credit: Photo by David J Phillip/AP/Shutterstock (13437499c) Houston Astros starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. throws against the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a baseball game, in Houston Phillies Astros Baseball, Houston, United States – 03 Oct 2022
In this final series of the regular season, the Astros are afforded the chance to use the last three games as a tune-up for the playoffs. The Phillies came into Houston looking to beat the Brewers for the final Wild Card spot in the National League.
Philadelphia would accomplish their mission in the series opener, using a terrific outing by Aaron Nola and a two-homer night by Kyle Schwarber to beat the Astros 3-0.
Schwarber’s leadoff homer the lone run against McCullers Jr., Nola starts off perfect
Lance McCullers Jr. had his night start on a sour note, with Kyle Schwarber turning his first pitch around for his NL-leading 45th home run of the season, giving the Phillies an immediate 1-0 advantage. While Houston’s starter rebounded, that one run loomed large as Aaron Nola dominated the Astros’ lineup.
McCullers Jr.’s night was by no means a bad one, as he would log six innings, allowing just one run on six hits, striking out five, and walking just one batter on 94 pitches. Nola, meanwhile, maintained a perfect game over that span, retiring every Houston batter he faced through the first six frames.
Phillies overpower Houston
Jose Urquidy came out of the bullpen to get some work on the mound in the top of the seventh, while Dusty Baker simultaneously took out some of his starters as he stated he would do later in these final three games. Urquidy worked around a one-out walk, keeping it a one-run game.
Nola’s perfect game and no-hitter ended with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, with Yordan Alvarez getting the first offensive highlight of the game for Houston with a single, though the Astros would not get any runs on the board. Urquidy remained in the game in the top of the eighth but was met with back-to-back solo home runs by Bryson Stott and Kyle Schwarber to extend Philadelphia’s lead to 3-0.
Phil Maton was Houston’s next arm out of the bullpen for the top of the ninth and, despite loading the bases, was able to post a scoreless frame to keep the score at 3-0. That would be the final score, though, as Houston would go quietly in the bottom of the ninth as the Phillies finished the shutout.
News and notes
Middle game Tuesday: The second of this three-game series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday. Justin Verlander (17-4, 1.80 ERA) will make his last start of the regular season for the Astros, with Ranger Suarez (10-6, 3.37 ERA) on the mound for the Phillies.
Taking it easy: As seen in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, Dusty Baker plans to give his key players a few at-bats in these final games, then get them out of the game to ease into the end of the regular season.
Philly in the postseason: With Philadelphia’s win against Houston, they secure the final Wild Card spot in the National League, eliminating the Brewers. It will be their first playoff appearance since 2011.