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Phillies turn to ‘Thor’ in bid to reclaim World Series edge

With a long-haired pitcher nicknamed “Thor” and some help from their passionate home supporters, the Philadelphia Phillies will try to reclaim the World Series lead over Houston on Monday.

The Astros and Phillies are level at 1-1 in Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship series, which continues with games Monday through Wednesday at Philadelphia.

The Phillies are 5-0 at home in this year’s playoffs and will host their first World Series game since 2009.

Add to that the electricity of a Halloween night matchup and a city fan base famous for booing Santa Claus and tormenting rival clubs and the stage is set for high drama in South Philadelphia for game three.

“That playing environment is really going to help us out,” said Phillies game three starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard. “Taking it back (home) where I think we’re pretty dangerous.”

Syndergaard, a Phillies long-haired 30-year-old right-hander nicknamed for the Norse God of Thunder, has been an opposing hurler facing taunts by Phillies fans from his days with the New York Mets.

“I’m more relieved to be wearing a Phillies jersey down in that bullpen, because those fans are on those guys from pitch one to the end of the game, and they’re an important part of this team,” said Syndergaard.

Obtained from the Los Angeles Angels in August at the MLB trade deadline, Syndergaard makes his first World Series start since game three in 2015 for the Mets.

That was before “Thor” missed most of the 2020 and 2021 seasons after undergoing “Tommy John” tendon-replacement surgery.

“Seven years seems like a long time ago,” Syndergaard said. “I was just a very naive rookie at the time. I’ve had a lot of baseball under my belt since then to mature.

“I’m not trying to get outside my realm. I definitely learned a lot and feel I’ve evolved as a pitcher, not just a thrower, over the course of this year.”

Syndergaard has allowed one run on three hits in 5 1/3 playoff innings, but hasn’t thrown more than 35 pitches in a game since mid-September.

“Now is the time to empty the tanks, leave nothing left, so I’ll go as long as they will allow me,” he said.

Phillies manager Rob Thomson hopes Syndergaard will pitch three or four innings before his relief pitchers enter.

“He’s a big, strong guy,” Thomson said. “We’ll see how he does, see how he feels, constantly communicate with him as he comes off the field. If he’s throwing the ball well and he’s not rusty and he’s sharp, we’ll keep going as long as he feels good.”

Astros manager Dusty Baker named Lance McCullers the Houston starter. The 29-year-old right-hander helped the Astros win the 2017 crown and has allowed three earned runs over 11 innings in two playoff starts.

“Lance is a competitor. He’s confident,” Baker said. “He’s a great guy to have on the team.”

A forearm injury knocked McCullers out of last year’s World Series so this will be his first such outing since 2017.

“I don’t have that many games under my belt this regular season,” said McCullers. “They are a really complete team. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

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