🥳 Friday has arrived. You know what that means ... it's game day, baby!

  • We collaborated with our friends at Axios Houston on a World Series-focused newsletter takeover to get you smart — and talk smack — before Game 1.

Weather: Sunny skies with a chance of V-I-C-T-O-R-Y. 59/41.

🦅 Situational awareness: The Eagles are looking to retain their undefeated season status against the Pittsburgh Steelers at home Sunday. Kickoff at 1pm.

Today's newsletter is 988 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Tale of two managers

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photos: Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images and Rob Carr/Getty Images

Their baseball paths couldn't have been more divergent, and yet managers Rob Thomson and Johnnie "Dusty" Baker will share the same stage when the Phillies and Astros square off tonight in Game 1 of the World Series.

Catch up fast: Much like their rookie manager, the Phillies took the scenic route to get here. The team was in turmoil after a 22-29 start that led to the mid-season firing of then manager Joe Girardi.

  • Under Thomson, the Phils went 65-46 and earned the sixth and final seed in the National League playoffs. They're one of the few teams who've made it to the World Series after failing to win at least 90 games in the regular season.

The Houston Astros, by contrast, are steeped in pedigree like their manager Baker, who has enjoyed a storied MLB career on the field and in the dugout.

  • After winning the championship in 2017 and posting the second-best record in MLB this season, the Astros are making their fourth World Series appearance in the last six years. They went a perfect 7-0 to get here.

Their styles: Thomson has exuded a calm that Phillies players have said put them at ease after dealing with a sterner tactician in Girardi, who didn't hesitate to bench players for making mistakes.

  • Baker is one of the few managers who isn't swooned by analytics and has been said to make most decisions on gut instinct.

Their backstories

2. By the numbers: How we stack up

Data: MLB; Visual: Jacque Schrag/Axios; Photos: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images and Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Data: MLB; Visual: Jacque Schrag/Axios; Photos: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images and Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Phillies are chasing their third title, the Astros are chasing their second, but those aren't the only numbers you should know about.

  • Axios' Jeff Tracy gave us a preview to the World Series, in five numbers:

19 wins: The 19-win difference between Houston (106) and Philly (87) is the second-largest ever between World Series opponents, trailing only the 1906 Fall Classic between the Cubs (116) and White Sox (93). Good news for the Fightins? The White Sox won.

0 losses: Houston (7-0 so far) has a chance to become just the second team to go undefeated in the postseason since the LCS was added in 1969 (1976 Reds, 7-0), and the first to go 11-0.

11/5: If the World Series goes the distance, Game 7 will be played on Nov. 5 — the latest in MLB history thanks to the lockout delaying Opening Day.

0 Black Americans: For the first time since 1950, just three years after Jackie Robinson broke MLB's color barrier, no American-born Black players are expected to play in the World Series.

$100 million men: The Phillies and Astros have seven of the 54 players with a contract worth at least $100 million: Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez and Alex Bregman.

🏟 Go deeper, via Axios Sports.

3. Mascot wars: Every villain has an origin story

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photos: Bob Levey and Rich Schultz/Getty Images

For all our differences, you'll notice one big, green and furry similarity when the Phillies and Astros match up tonight.

  • Our mascots look irritatingly related.

Yes, but: One's a bird from the Galapagos. The other's from outer space.

We wanted to know more about the Phanatic's less charming doppelgänger, so we traded origin stories with our Houston friends.

Flashback: In the late 1970s, the Phillies were ready to say goodbye to their Revolutionary past and colonial mascots Phil and Phillis. So, they reached out to master puppeteer Jim Henson for help.

  • Two of his Muppets designers, including the creator of Miss Piggy, made the laughable, lovable Phanatic, with his bulging eyes and megaphone-shaped snout.

But why the Galapagos backstory?

  • "We figured, who could contest that?" creator Bonnie Erickson said, per Sports Illustrated. "This seemed to be the perfect background for a character that nobody could describe. It's a purely fantasy animal."
Philadelphia Phillies' mascot Philly Phanatic walks across the field during a game at Veterans Stadium circa 1980 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Phanatic at Veterans Stadium circa 1980. Photo: Focus on Sport/ Getty Images

The Astros, meanwhile, were under the guard of Chester Charge, a Texas cavalry soldier, in the '70s.

The intrigue: Orbit was temporarily ousted by a Texas jackrabbit named Junction Jack when the team left the Astrodome in 2000.

  • Fans petitioned for years to bring their beloved space being back, and the team finally obliged in 2013. Orbit has been the star of the stadium ever since.
A side-by-side of the Astro's old mascot Junction Jack with the team's current one, Orbit.
Junction Jack and Orbit. Photo: MLB via Getty Images; Bob Levey/Getty Images

👎 Houston's thought bubble: Does anyone pen love letters to Phanatic? Orbit is a bike-loving hero who once pedaled 170 miles for charity. We'll see soon enough who's waving the World Series champion flag.

💌 Our thought bubble: The Phillies Phanatic is quite literally the best in America — so good at ruffling feathers, it nearly cost him his snout. See: Tommy Lasorda vs. Phanatic in 1988. Plus: He's one of just four mascots on display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Guess who isn't there?

4. News Market: Get your hot dogs and headlines

Phillies fans celebrate victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2008 MLB World Series at Citizens Bank Park. Photo: Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images

🍺 From red beer to Schwarberfest, Philly Mag rounded up all the places offering Phillies-themed food and drink deals this week.

🧢 Looking for some last-minute Phillies gear? Makers on Etsy have plenty apparel and other Phils swag in stock, including dog bandanas and embroidery kits. (Billy Penn)

🎵 Firefly Music Festival announced yesterday that it won't be hosting its annual four-day festival next year. But organizers promised a return in 2024. (Delaware News Journal)

🗳️ Republican At-large City Councilmember David Oh says he's exploring a run for mayor in 2023. While four Democrats have officially started to campaign for mayor in their primary, no Republican has entered the race. (Northeast Times)

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5. Headed to Houston? Here's your travel guide

Phillies' Brandon Marsh #16 participates in the World Series workout day at Houston's Minute Maid Park on Thursday. Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

For all die-hard Phillies fans headed to Houston, we've got you covered.

Axios Houston's Jay R. Jordan says: Houston is Astros territory, but a small enclave of Philadelphians in the Bayou City will host a watch party for Phillies fans at Little Woodrow's in the Heights neighborhood.

While you're in town, you can also get a taste of home with what's considered the best cheesesteak, at least by renowned Houston meteorologist and Phillies fan Matt Lanza of Space City Weather.

Keep reading

👏 Isaac is rooting for an extra-innings affair between the Phils and Astros.

❤️ Alexa loves love so she can't get enough of this story about a missed connection at Sunday's Phillies Broad Street celebration.

🦖Mike is considering ditching his dinosaur Halloween outfit for a Bryce Harper costume.

Today's newsletter was edited by Alexa Mencia, Kristen Hinman and Lindsey Erdody.