Richard Justice: Dusty Baker is conducting a master class on managerial patience. Good thing for Astros? Stay tuned.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock (13057592g) Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. watches from the dugout during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, in Houston Mariners Astros Baseball, Houston, United States – 30 Jul 2022

Richard Justice: Dusty Baker is conducting a master class on managerial patience. Good thing for Astros? Stay tuned.

   Dusty Baker is conducting a master class on managerial patience. If the Astros lose this World Series, that patience will be a topic of conversation all winter long.

   He allowed Justin Verlander to surrender a 5-0 lead in Game 1, betting his ace would work through his problems. He did the same with Lance McCullers in Game 3 on Tuesday, even as the baseball kept flying out of the park in a 7-0 loss.

   This patience goes against everything October baseball has become. Phillies manager Rob Thomson has taken this hair-on-fire approach throughout the postseason.

   But it’s Baker that has a bullpen built for October baseball with quality arm stacked on top of quality arm. That was especially true in Game 3, when two off days gave him a fully rested group.

   This patience could pay off if the Astros win Game 4 or Game 5 and bring the World Series back to Houston for the final two contests. Houston’s depth advantage at that point would be formidable.

   Meanwhile, Thomson has taken the opposite approach, even with a lesser bullpen. From the beginning of this season, he has managed every game as if it was the last one of the season. That’s a byproduct of taking over a 21-29 team and leading the franchise to its first World Series in 13 years. Win today; worry about tomorrow later.

   In Game 1 of the World Series, he used his Game 3 starter, Ranger Suarez, in relief for two big outs in the seventh and eighth innings. That meant Game 3 on Monday would become a bullpen game.

   No matter. If he had a chance to win a World Series game, he was going to try and win it. He caught a break when Game 3 was rained out, meaning he could send Suarez out for Game 3 as planned. Suarez delivered five shutout innings against an Astros team that look jittery and over-anxious. Wasn’t all that World Series experienced supposed to be an advantage?

   Citizens Bank Park was roaring, and the Phillies have fed off those vibes to go 6-0 at home in the postseason.

   “The energy and the atmosphere here is second to none,” Phillies right fielder Nick Castellanos said. “The only thing I can compare it to is a European soccer game. It’s tough to play here. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the Astros right now. They just really have zero breathing room, and that’s a good thing.”

    But the Astros have been in hostile environments before. McCullers hung a curveball to Bryce Harper in the first inning, and the Phillies had a 2-0 lead that was just the beginning. After the homer, television cameras caught Harper whispering something to Castellanos and third baseman Alec Bohm, both of whom would homer off McCullers later in the game.

   “Just trying to pass along information about what I’d seen,” Harper said.

  Bohm wouldn’t bite when asked what Harper told him.

   “I think any little tidbit of information that you can get helps,” first baseman Rhys Hoskins said. “I know the camera caught Bohm and Harp talking. It’s mostly about the shape of the pitches, where you need to see the pitch, what lane it needs to start in.”

   The Phillies said their analytics team had reminded them that McCullers had thrown just two four-seam fastballs to left-handed hitters in 96 plate appearances this season. Those lefty hitters—Harper, Schwarber, Brandon Marsh—were ready for the off-speed stuff.

   Finally, after McCullers surrendered his fourth and fifth home runs in the bottom of the fifth, a World Series record, Baker went to his bullpen. McCullers had put up zeroes in the third and fourth innings, and the fifth inning came undone before Baker could get anyone warmed up.

   “We got beat pretty bad,” McCullers said, “and I got beat up pretty bad.”

   Let’s push the pause button on the second-guessing and remind ourselves Dusty Baker is not why the Astros lost Game 3.

   The Astros were shut out by Philadelphia’s No. 3 starter, Suarez, and four relievers. Yordan Alvarez has one hit in the World Series. Alex Bregman has two, one of them a huge home run in Game 2.

   The Astros are living by the home run, with 65.9 percent of their postseason runs scoring via the long ball. That’s way up from 46.3 percent during the regular season.

   Baker’s first five names on his lineup card were 0 for 11 against Suarez. Speaking of patience, Trey Mancini and Aledmys Diaz were a combined 1 for 34 in the postseason before rookie David Hensley was given an opportunity to DH in Game 3.

   (Department of trivia: The last time the Astros were shut out 7-0 or worse on the road was July 26, 2017, at—wait for it—Philadelphia. Hat tip‘s Andrew Simon.)

    Hall of Famer John Smoltz speculated on Fox TV that McCullers might have been tipping his pitches. McCullers said he simply wasn’t making good pitches.

   “I got whupped,” he said. “End of story.”

   Regardless, his refusal to throw fastballs to left-handed hitters was an issue. Still, had he executed those pitches, it wouldn’t have mattered even if they knew what was coming.

   Now, the Astros arrive at another fork in the road. A loss in Game 4 would put them in a 3-1 hole.      

   “Whatever happened before, we’re down 2-1 right now,” Bregman said. “Let’s come back, compete, ready to go.”

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