HOUSTON – Before managing his first game of the World Series on Friday, a relaxed Rob Thomson chatted about not overthinking things. He tried to keep his team as relaxed as he had been all season and the same applied to his decisions – in this case the batting order worked well, but he also wrote big.

Thomson changed his tactics with a sense of urgency. He didn’t wait for cars that might not matter, gaining time with his best unloaders. It’s time for someone like JT Realmut to do what he did in the top of the 10th inning.

Realmuta led off the 10th with a solo home run, the first for either team since the fifth inning, and after many nervy moments, he was instrumental in a 6-5 Game 1 victory over the Houston Astros at Maid Park.

Thomson went for it from his bullpen. He used Jose Alvarado in the fifth to face shortstop Jordan Alvarez and two-homer hero Kyle Tucker. He used Ranger Suarez, who would have otherwise started Game 3, for that move in order in the seventh and eighth innings. He walked his intended closer, Serantani Dominguez, with one out in the eighth.

“It was exciting and a great game,” Thomson said. “I thought JT had some big at-bats, our bullpen was fantastic, and overall it was a great game, a great come-from-behind win, and it showed again the resilience of the club and how tough they are and they just never quit “.

That meant he was left with only David Robertson to save, but he might not have gotten there if it weren’t for the use of his big hands in the biggest spots he knew were in front of him.

It’s a plan his staff was involved with.

“When the game starts, I keep saying, ‘Thompson, I’m ready,'” Alvarado said. “If you need me, call me, I’m ready.”

Suarez was a wild card. The left-hander closed out the NLCS by getting the final two outs in Game 5 against San Diego. That’s set, and with Friday as his day to do a bullpen session to prepare for his next start, Thomson made it clear it could be in the game. He was informed of the opportunity earlier in the day and headed to the bullpen in the fourth inning.

“That’s what we have to do as baseball players, be ready for any situation, go out and be the most competitive that we can be,” said Zach Eflin, who had four outs in the sixth and seventh. “And everyone did a great job with this role. It’s cool that no one really defines the role. In tight situations, we know who’s going to come out and who’s not going to come out, but when your name is called, we’re ready to go, and that’s a big thing we have in the bullpen.”

It worked, even if it was tricky at times. Alec Bohm had a great game, getting into foul territory on Martin Maldonado’s groundout to end the sixth with two out.

The closest shave came in the ninth when Jose Altuve hit a single up the middle with two outs, the second baseman’s 3-for-36 start to the postseason. Altuve then took a second shot, so close that Thomson challenged the safety call but missed it by a millimeter.

Jeremy Peña followed with what appeared to be the game-winning single to shallow right field … until hard-hitting Nick Castellanos slid into his glove, the fifth clutch out recorded by Dominguez.

Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Nick Castellanos #8 of the Philadelphia Phillies jumps to catch a fly ball in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the 2022 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 28, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

That set the stage for Realmuto to turn around Luis Garcia’s 3-2, 97 mph fastball to lead off the 10th, driving it into the front row of seats in right, past Tucker’s outstretched gloved hand. It was the first extra-inning homer in the postseason by a catcher since Carlton Fisk in the 1975 World Series, and the first extra-inning homer by a Phillie since Lenny Dykstra in Game 5 of the 1993 NLCS.

“Just excited to be able to swing well on this field, to get our team ahead,” Realmuto said. “We did such a good job of fighting there. We had some momentum going into the 4th, 5th innings and it was just a big win for us tonight to be able to close it out after being down 5-0.”

Robertson then found himself in a difficult situation. Alex Bregman doubled with one out off the wall in left, then Yuri Gurriel walked. Both advanced on a wild pitch.

Robertson appeared to be loading the bases when Aledmys Diaz was hit by a bunt. But home plate umpire James Hoy ruled that Diaz intentionally let the ball hit him but still called it a ball. Diaz, clearly leaning toward the pitch, then spun around and missed on a 3-0 curveball. He then bounced the ball to replacement third baseman Edmund Sosa, who threw it out to end it.

“I think he leaned over the plate to hit it,” Robertson said. “I was behind the count at that point when I thought it was a strike, but I didn’t know. … I had an open base. I know it sounds crazy to load the bases, but I just had to pitch a couple of innings. So I just relaxed and tried to throw a couple of good sliders in there, I managed to get two over the plate. He hit second and the game was over.”

Tucker’s night seemed destined early on. The All-Star right fielder, who hit 30 home runs and drove in 100 runs this season, joked in a press conference Thursday about hoping to end the streak at four games. Then he played as he thought.

Tucker had the first hit of the game, a solo homer off Aaron Nola in the second inning. He then hit a 3-2 sinker by Nolo that didn’t quite sink into the Astros’ bullpen for a 3-run shot to make it 5-0.

In normal times, that would have been enough for Justin Verlander, who last saw the Phillies hitless (albeit tired from celebrating) through five innings in the final series of the regular season. But Verlander’s World Series is a different beast — as are, in all fairness, the never-say-die Phils who got here.

Over the course of three decades, Verlander went eight World Series starts without a win. His ERA in the Fall Classic climbed to 6.07, a far cry from his overall postseason success.

He cruised through three innings of a nine-up, nine-down start for the Phillies with more strikeouts (four) than infield balls. But the Phillies’ small ball got to him in the fourth. Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper singled, the latter with two outs, extending Harper’s hitting streak to 12 games, two shy of the MLB record. Castellanos lined a single to center to score the run, and Alec Bohm ripped a fly ball down the left field line to chase down two balls. Just like that, what was a 5-0 lead was cut to 5-3.

The Phillies continued to pour it on in the fifth, with Brandon Marsh breaking out of an 0-for-16 slump dating back to the NLDS with a resounding double. Kyle Schwarber walked and both ran home when Realmuta smashed a gap in left-center with a double off the wall. Verlander walked five, struck out five and allowed six hits.

“It’s always good to be a small piece of a bigger puzzle,” Marsh said. “That shot, I enjoyed it.”

Nola didn’t last long after striking out Pena to lead off the fifth. In a horrible repeat of his outing in San Diego, he was hit by a nine-hole catcher who took a hit and run through the vacated hole at second base. At least this one wasn’t his brother. Martin Maldonado did it in the second inning, scoring Gurriel and backing up with a solo blast from Tucker to make it 2-0.

The Phillies had their chances against the Astros bullpen. Brian Abreu tired in the second inning of work in the seventh, allowing an infield single and a pair of walks. But Hector Neris, the Phillies’ only closer, came in to strike out Castellanos with the bases loaded.

In the end, Phyllis’ never-say-die attitude won out again. For a team trailing by four runs in the NLCS clincher, a 5-run hole after three innings was manageable.

“Everybody just looks at each other and says we’ve been here,” Bohm said. “Should we go up to the clubhouse and go out and start tomorrow’s game? Is this what we should do? Or should we just play?”