By Sam Bush

The Phils backs are against the wall going into tonight’s game 6 of the World Series.

They’re down three games to two and the two they need to win the WS are both in Houston.

“I think it’s ‘stay the course,'” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said Friday when asked about his message to his team.

“We played really good baseball. I don’t think there’s any reason to panic. We just got to keep doing what we’re doing and concentrate on doing the little things. I always tell ’em focus on the little things and big things will happen. Don’t try to do too much, be yourself, good at-bats, play good defense, throw strikes, execute pitches, that type of thing.”

The Astros took a 5-0 lead in three of the first four games and threw a combined no-hitter in Game 4.

So, it’s a minor upset that the Phillies, who have only been outscored 18-17 in the series, are still standing.

It’s a credit to their toughness and resourcefulness that they’re even still playing.

The 2019 Nationals showed it’s possible to go into Houston, win two games and clinch a championship. That doesn’t mean it will be easy though. Far from it. Here are four things that must happen for the Phillies to have their best shot at making a comeback to win the World Series.

Zack Wheeler had a rough outing in Game 2, surrendering five runs (four earned) in five innings, including three runs only six batters into the game. Wheeler’s velocity was down a bit as well, and the Phillies declined to start him on normal rest in Game 5 just to give him a little extra rest and make sure he was in the best possible position physically the next time he takes the mound.

“Yeah, I think the extra rest always helps,” Wheeler said Friday. “But the bullpen felt good. I think we’re on track.”

Prior to Game 2, Wheeler was nails in four postseason starts, pitching to a 1.78 ERA and 0.51 WHIP in 25 1/3 innings. He had a great regular season as well, essentially matching his 2021 Cy Young runner-up performance on a rate basis, albeit in fewer innings because of some nagging injuries. Make no mistake, Wheeler has been a frontline starter for three years now.

The Phillies need Wheeler to go out and dominate in Game 6 the way Strasburg did three years. It’s really hard to see them making a comeback in the series with Wheeler being anything less than excellent. Any hope starts with him.

“I think you just pitch to your strengths and just make the adjustments that you need to,” Wheeler said Friday when asked what he took from Game 2. “They’re a good team, but hopefully I can command the ball a little bit better this time and hopefully that puts me in a better position.”


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