HOUSTON – A day after Rob Thomson broke up with his bullpen, it was a ruse on Saturday.

When asked if Ranger Suarez could be available again after his turn at work on Friday, Thomson chose the line “everyone is available”.

Suarez will likely start Game 3 or Game 4 of the World Series in Philadelphia, with the other going to a bullpen combination led by Noah Syndergaard or Kyle Gibson. Thomson said he will make that decision after Game 2, which leaves open the chance for Suarez to repeat his relief role after going 11 innings in Game 1.

Another important piece of the relief puzzle could help solve Suarez’s role: Brad Hand.

The left-hander has been struggling lately. He’s been pretty good all year, going 45 innings with a 2.80 ERA, a 3-2 record and five saves in seven chances as a high-leverage option. He went on the disabled list on Sept. 25 for two weeks with tendinitis in his left elbow. But he bounced back with three scoreless innings against Atlanta in the NLDS before running into trouble in the NLCS. He allowed two hits and a walk in Game 2 without recording an out, then gave up a homer to Juan Soto in Game 4 of the NLCS, though he got the win.

“The last couple of outings have been a bit scattered with his team,” Thomson said. “But I still trust him because he’s a veteran presence. He’s been here before and done that. So I have no problem putting it in play in a big place. We have other guys that I trust a lot.”

Hand has struggled in the postseason, allowing 11 hits and seven earned runs in six career innings, including three with Cleveland in 2018 and 2020.

He is believed to be critical in helping to shorten the Astros’ batting order. Thomson’s bullpen strategy relied on facing the Astros’ high-leverage lefties and middle-of-the-pack lefties: Jordan Alvarez in the three-hitter and Kyle Tucker in the five-man. That duo faced Jose Alvarado in his third turn in the lineup in Game 1, Suarez in the fourth and Serantani Dominguez in the fifth.

Tucker finished off Aaron Nola with two home runs in Game 1. He and Alvarez combined for 67 homers and 204 RBI this year.

While righties Jeremy Peña and Alex Bregman have been reliable, Jose Altuve is just 4-37 this postseason despite a single Friday in the ninth inning. Designated hitter Trey Mancini is 0-16 in the playoffs. Dusty Baker pinch-hit for him with two outs in the 10th and left him on the 2nd.

With all the righties on the bench and the Astros’ firepower limited by Michael Brantley’s injury — forcing Alvarez, a great hitter but an underwhelming fielder, to left field — the order could quickly become shallow. That makes the fights against Alvarez and Tucker all the more important.

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Zach Wheeler declared himself sore but good Friday for his start in Game 2, though he didn’t care much about the follow-up after that.

Josh Bell, who returned for Game 5 of the NLCS, got the win over Wheeler, who went 1-2-3. The ball hit the “inside of the knee” on his left leg (landing). He shrugged to continue playing.

“I think it was more like at the time it really hurt, and certainly the next couple of days, but it’s fine now,” Wheeler said, pushing back on whether it was a “delay.” .

Wheeler, usually soft-spoken, doesn’t expect the atmosphere at Minute Maid Park Saturday night to cause him to throw a curveball.

“I’m sure the atmosphere here will be very good,” he said. “It’s inside. This is the World Series. So I’m sure it will be pretty loud. I’m sure their fans are looking forward to it. So, yeah, it should be a lot of fun.”

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Before his heroics Friday, writing his name along with Carlton Fisk in the annals of postseason catching history, JT Realmuta took a red-faced swipe from Ches McCormick in the sixth inning that ripped the mask off his face. It stung him well.

“Honestly, my head wasn’t the problem,” Realmuto said. “It just burned my jaw pretty good. I’m probably going to have a hard time getting dinner tonight, but as long as I’m all right, I’m good to go.’

Realmuta carries such a heavy workload, leading the major leagues with 1,131 regular season innings. It’s the second most of his career, behind 1,139 from 2019. Since 2018, only one catcher (Wilson Contreras in 2018) has surpassed 1,100 innings pitched. Including the playoffs, he has caught 1,238.2 innings, about 26 games more than the next-highest pitcher, Houston’s Martin Maldonado.

However, Realmuto is still slashing .267/.353/.489 with three homers, six RBIs and 11 runs in the postseason.

“Honestly, I’m not sure how my body is going to react until the season is over because I’m on so much adrenaline right now that I feel great every night,” he said. “The training staff and strength coaches have done such a great job with me throughout the season, developing a program and keeping my body ready to play every day, that honestly, my body feels probably the best it’s ever been year. a long time.”

“I mean, there’s really no other way to say it other than he’s just the real deal,” Nick Castellanos said. “There’s very few catchers — I mean, I haven’t played baseball very long, but long enough to know that I can catch as much as he can and be able to pitch like him and steal bases and get an extra base, to even hit an inside-the-park home run as a catcher (in Game 4 of the NLCS), that’s really, really impressive, and he’s a heck of an athlete.”

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NOTES >> The Phillies are 4-0 in Game 1s this year and have won seven in a row dating back to the 2008 World Series. They are 19-7 all-time in Game 1s, including 10-2 on the road. Alec Bohm: “It’s a big boost for the sport. Obviously, anytime you can go into a playoff series and win Game 1 and start off on the right foot, that’s important.” … The Phillies are just the eighth team to win at least 10 of their first 12 postseason games. Five of the previous seven have won titles. … Teams were 5-220 all-time in the World Series when facing a five-run deficit before Friday and 4-111 when down 5-0. Four of the previous five winners have won in the series.