HOUSTON – After Phillies shortstop Bryce Harper claimed National League Championship Series MVP honors and before Game 1 of the World Series, Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson looked to move Harper up the batting order.

Sometimes the best managerial moves are the ones not made.

On Friday, Harper stayed in the cleanup spot, just behind catcher JT Realmuth’s tying run, two-run double in the fifth inning and the game-winning home run in the top of the 10th as the Phillies beat the Houston Astros 6 -5 to be the first in a Best of Seven series.

The decision to keep the starting lineup static proved to be a smart one for Thomson and the Phillies, who will try to take a 2-0 series lead on Saturday behind ace right-hander Zach Wheeler.

“Well, I came in (Thursday) and I talked to (hitting coach) Kevin Long and I talked to (hitting coach) Mike Calitri and I talked to a lot of players about the lineup because I didn’t want to overthink it.” Thomson said. “And to a man, they said, ‘You know we’ve been swinging the bats pretty well where we’re at. Everybody’s very comfortable where we’re at, so we’re going with it.’

Harper finished 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored.

Wheeler (1-1, 1.78 ERA postseason; 12-7, 2.82 regular season) will start against Astros lefty Framber Valdez (1-0, 1.42 ERA postseason; 17-6, 2.82 regular season).

Valdes shined in his last game, Game 2 of the AL Championship Series, when he allowed two unearned runs and recorded nine strikeouts in seven innings in a 3-2 victory over the New York Yankees.

In two World Series starts in 2021, Valdez has hit hard, posting a 19.29 ERA and 1.479 opponent OPS while allowing more home runs (four) than strikeouts (three) in just 4 2/3 innings. He rediscovered himself in 2022, setting a major league single-season record with 25 consecutive quality starts.

“I think the biggest difference between last year and this year was consistency,” Valdez said. “I think this year I’ve been a little more consistent in everything I’ve done. I feel good about the results I got and hopefully I can continue to get more.”

After losing Game 1 for the third time in their last three World Series appearances, the Astros will need a restful Valdez to help them close out the series before it heads to Philadelphia for Games 3, 4 and (if necessary) 5. Given that they if we’ve seen him so far, they have reason to expect just that.

Asked what he needed from a starter in Game 2 after the Game 1 meltdown, Astros manager Dusty Baker said, “We just need Framber to be Framber. That’s usually enough runs for Framber and (Verlander), but it wasn’t enough tonight. We need some submissions. They kind of went through their bullpen. We went through ours. So it’s a matter of how far the starters can go tomorrow.”

Thomson moved Wheeler back a day in the World Series rotation to give him an extra day of rest. He’s pitched at least six innings in each of his four starts during the 2022 postseason, which could bode well for the Phillies’ bullpen.

“Obviously I’m a little bit better if I get five days off instead of four, so yeah, I think that’s going to help me,” Wheeler said.

–MoiseKapenda Bower, Field Level Media