2022 World Series: John Smoltz, Ben Verlander predict Astros-Phillies

Ahead of Game 1 of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros (8 pm ET Friday on FOX), Ben Verlander and co-host Alex Curry will sit down with FOX Sports MLB writer Deesha Thosar on Thursday’s live preview episode of “Flippin’ Bats” (9 pm ET).

[Astros’ Jeremy Peña Is Over The Carlos Correa Comparisons]

Hall of Famer John Smoltz, who previously joined Verlander on the show to discuss postseason pitching and the importance of a 1-0 series lead, will accompany Verlander on “Flippin’ Bats” each day of the World Series.

“Flippin’ Bats” will have new episodes air at 7:30 pm ET, 33 minutes before the first pitch of each game, as well as a postgame episode to follow each game of the World Series.

Smoltz spoke to FOX Sports about the biggest pitching questions around the series.

Name a pitcher from each staff you think could be a surprising “difference maker” for their team … someone maybe not obvious to casual fans?

John Smoltz: For the Astros, it would be rookie RHP Hunter Brown. He’s going to be a great starter in the future. He has great stuff and can do so many things for Houston. For the Phillies, I’ll go the other direction and go with a veteran. I think RHP Noah Syndergaard could be huge for Philadelphia, especially if he can provide big innings for them. Game 4 will be the test. RHP Andrew Bellatti in the pen for Philly is another candidate but will need his slider to be a little better than it was in the previous series.

How do the pitching staffs match up against each other and against the opposing lineup?

The starting pitching in this series will be great to watch and tough to hit. The front three for each club are fantastic, with the Astros having more starter depth. But the front three for each club match up great. Both pitching staffs face good power -hitting lineups, but the difference maker might be that the Astros hitters don’t strike out as much. Both lineups include a pair of slugging left-handed hitters, with the Phillies having a little more power throughout their lineup.

Where are the strengths and weaknesses of each team’s bullpen? Which team is in the best position to succeed if the series were to go seven games?

The bullpens have major pitchers at the end of it for both clubs, with the Phillies riding three or four guys, while the pen for the Astros is deeper. RHP Seranthony Dominguez and LHP Jose Alvarado are important for the Phillies, while Houston’s manager, Dusty Baker, can go to a lot of personnel before going to his closer Overall, the edge goes to the Astros. However, if Phillies starters can do their thing and pitch six or seven innings, then that Houston edge is obviously diminished. Because of depth , if the series is a long one, the Astros have more weapons to handle a seven-game series.

We also ask Verlander to answer three key questions that could decide the Series:

The Astros have gotten a huge postseason out of rookie Jeremy Peña. How impressed have you been by the young shortstop, and do you expect him to keep this up in the World Series?

Peña was built for the pressure of the postseason. He has been so impressive all year and has continued to step up huge during the playoffs. I had him on my show earlier in the year and could tell then that he was equipped for the challenge. There was no moment too large for him, and he continues to show that every night in October.

The Phillies weren’t a great regular-season team, but seem to have caught fire in the postseason. Is there some 2021 Braves magic to this team?

This Philadelphia team reminds me a lot of the 2019 Nationals. Many underestimated them because they came in as a wild-card team, but really they just started the season slowly. The Phillies are the epitome of a powerhouse team. They have an MVP, two certified aces, Silver Sluggers everywhere you look, and a crowd that definitely gives them an imposing home-field advantage. Don’t let the records fool you: This is no David-Goliath matchup. This is two powerhouses facing off while playing their best baseball.

Harper talks historic homer

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry recap a wild NLCS Game 5 between the Padres and Phillies, and Bryce Harper’s mammoth home run to win it.

Both the Astros and Phillies have great lineups with plenty of proven hitters. If you had to pick one slugger who will particularly stand out in this series, who do you think it would be?

So many offensive stars are a part of this World Series. For me, I’m looking at Alex Bregman to stand out among the rest. He has proven to rise to the biggest moments, and he has really been swinging the bat well lately. Watch out for more big Bregman moments in the World Series


FOX Sports’ MLB crew recently broke down how these two powerhouse teams stack up against one another this series, what it would take for the Phillies to pull off upset over the Astros, and also how a win would elevate the Astros’ dynasty.

Check out Thursday’s live World Series preview show of “Flippin Bats” here.

Read more:

2022 MLB World Series: Jose Altuve among best MVP bets, plus a long shot

Astros don’t need to be liked to win the World Series

2022 MLB World Series: How to watch Astros vs. Phillies Game 1

2022 MLB World Series: Phillies-Astros, By The Numbers

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