HOUSTON – In the early going of the 118th World Series, the Phillies saw a familiar face pop out of the Astros’ bullpen.

Hector Nerys spent eight seasons in Philadelphia and was signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, neatly tracking nearly the entirety of the Phillies’ 11-year playoff drought. It included parts of five seasons as upcoming, with apparently mixed results.

And now, in what appears to be the epitome of a win-win move, the two sides will face each other in a series they have long sought to achieve.

“I felt happy for those guys because I knew how hard they worked,” Nerys said Thursday at preseason media day. “They were close in 2020, they were close in 2021, and then they broke through this season when nobody thought they would be in the middle of the season.”

Nerys took the field during the first game Friday night and struck out Nick Castellanos with the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning to lead the Astros out of that inning tied at 5-5. It was a big moment for the longtime former Philly.

Nerys can epitomize the Phillies’ playoff drought as much as anyone. He made 405 appearances with a 27-33 record, 3.42 ERA and 87 saves. He was both at the epicenter of bullpen criticism and at the nexus of hopes for a revival that never materialized.

The Phillies let him play in the offseason, Houston added him to a deep bullpen, where he thrived with a 6-4 record, 3.72 ERA and three saves in 65.1 innings. The Phillies put the pieces together without him, creating a bullpen that dominated down the stretch.

Neris has only good memories of Philadelphia.

“It’s a great experience for me, a great story,” he said. “I spent a lot of time with this team, they made me who I am now. This is the team I grew up with and made it to the big leagues. This is the team that gave me the opportunity to be there. I say good for them, and God bless everyone there.”

With all his other ties to the Phillies, Nerys doesn’t think that will be an advantage. He’s also sure that once Game 1 starts, the friendship ends.

“Hector and I were very close,” second baseman Jean Segura said. “We talk a lot and have fun on the phone. But in this situation, I know he’ll go with his best stuff, and I’ll go with my best, too. I wish him luck, whoever does better wins now. … We are very close and very friendly, but now we are enemies.”

“I’ll be ready to face those guys,” Nerys said. “I know all my friends are there, but once the game starts, the friends are gone.”

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The Phillies made two changes to their World Series lineup Friday before Game 1.

They are traded pitcher Nick Nelson for lefty Bailey Folter and added a left-handed bat in Nick Matton for outfielder Dalton Guthrie.

Folter was the ill-fated starter in Game 4 of the NLCS, allowing four earned runs over two-thirds of an inning in his only postseason appearance. The Phillies have five starting pitchers, with Kyle Gibson and Noah Syndergaard able to eat up innings, and manager Rob Thomson hasn’t taken advantage of the length option that an extra starter in the bullpen provides this postseason.

Instead, they’ll have Nelson as a more conventional long man. Nelson was on the NLDS roster but did not appear. He went 3-2 with a 4.85 ERA in 68.2 innings pitched in 47 appearances this season.

“They’re right-handed dominant, both hitting and pitching in this bullpen, so it made sense to me to add a right-hander when we took Bailey off,” Thomson said. “And I said to Bailey, this has nothing to do with you. He had a start against the Padres, very rusty, a bunch of off days. And he’s been so valuable to us all year.”

Mayton gives the Phillies another left-handed at-bat against an Astros team that has been without a lefty that has had no righty relief all postseason. (Dusty Baker reversed course Friday, with former Brave Will Smith. Smith replaced Seth Martinez in Houston’s lone change.)

Mattan was on the roster for the Wild Card Series but did not appear in St. Louis. He’s batting .250 with five homers in 85 games this season and provides an option against the Astros’ right-handed-heavy bullpen.

Guthrie took his place in the division and championship series with one game against Atlanta.

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Justin Verlander was in the midst of his press conference Thursday when Dave Dombrowski walked by the Minute Maid Park hallway and stuck his head out to say hello. Such are the privileges of the combined 10 World Series.

Dombrowski selected Old Dominion’s Verlander with the second overall pick in the 2004 MLB draft. in Detroit.

“He’s still wearing the same cologne, by the way,” Verlander said. “I can smell it. It is very distinctive. I remember that smell.’

Hours earlier, Dombrowski brought up a familiar name to discuss the 39-year-old’s longevity. Even before Verlander broke into the bullpen with 17 games for the 2006 pennant-winning Tigers, Dombrowski had one comparison: the owner of the retired number 34 for the Houston Rafters.

“I said, yeah, he’s that good,” Dombrowski said. “And Nolan Ryan performed until he was 45 years old, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin was performing until now.”

Verlander, who would take a 5-0 lead in Game 1 on Friday night with the game tied, is grateful that Dombrowski took a chance on him. This draft was filled with pitching, with seven of the top eight picks being pitchers and the No. 1 overall pick, Matt Bush, moving from shortstop. Verlander is the only All-Star among the top 11, followed by forgettable righties such as Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann, Mark Rodgers and Thomas Diamond.

“I was a high-risk, high-reward draft pick coming out of Old Dominion,” Verlander said. “And they took a leaflet on me with a second pick. And I really appreciate them for letting me be myself and raising me so quickly. I started my career very young. I felt it was a great marriage. We rewarded them with Rookie of the Year and a trip to the World Series my first year.”

Verlander never won a World Series game, going 0-6 with a 5.68 ERA in seven starts over 38 innings. That compares to 8-1 in the ALDS with a 3.08 ERA and 7-4 with a 3.01 ERA in the ALCS.

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The NLCS family story did not have a happy ending. It worked out for Philadelphia in the Nola half of the brotherly battle, with Aaron Nola winning the pennant and taking the ball in Game 1 of the World Series at the expense of his older brother, San Diego Padres catcher Austin Nola.

Austin didn’t just lose the series. He went 1-for-19, his only RBI hit with his brother in Game 2. And he got the final out with a sharp first-pitch flyout to right field off Ranger Suarez with two out in Game 5.

Aaron said Austin has no plans to travel to Houston or Philadelphia for the series, so he needs time to decompress in his Montana retreat. But they talked, comforting brother Aaron.

“He congratulated me and said he was sorry we didn’t talk after the game,” Aaron said. “He was very upset, which I understand. I understand. I think everyone will. I am very happy for him. He had a great season and a great postseason.”

Despite the disappointing final note — Austin went 8-for-21 with four RBIs over the first two series — Aaron took time to appreciate their meeting, just the brothers’ sixth MLB playoff series matchup and the first postseason pitcher. match against the hitting brother.

“We said it might not happen again,” Aaron said. “I think at that point in the season, the Championship Series, not a lot of brothers get to play against each other like that late in the season, so we’re definitely into it.”

The seventh such series was prevented, the lists confirmed. Although the Phillies added Mayton, his brother Phil will miss the series with a broken arm. Phil broke his fifth metatarsal bone when he punched the locker after the season finale against the Phillies, in which he gave up two runs. That included an RBI single for Nick.

Phil Mayton would take part in the conversation from Baker. The 29-year-old posted a 3.84 ERA in 65.2 innings in his sixth major league season.

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NOTES >> Rob Thomson is the first Canadian to manage a team in the World Series. The Sarnia, Ontario native is acutely aware. “It’s great. I’m a proud Canadian,” Thomson said. “I love my country. I love what we stand for, but honestly, I’m just happy to be managing a team in the World Series.” He is the first Canadian major league manager. since George Gibson of the Pirates in 1934. … Thomson is seeking to become the first rookie interim manager to win the streak. Only two midseason staffers — Bob Lemon of the 1978 Yankees and Jack McKeon of the 2003 Marlins — won the World Series the season they were hired.