The Houston Astros quickly dug out of a two-game hole and fought back to put themselves within a win of a World Series championship.
Gerrit Cole pitched another October gem and Houston bashed three homers in a 7-1 victory against the Washington Nationals on Sunday in Game 5 at Nationals Park. The Astros outscored Washington 19-3 in the three road contests that enabled them to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
The festivities got started early in Washington on Sunday. Less than four hours before first pitch, the Nationals announced that a neck injury would prevent Max Scherzer from making his scheduled Game 5 start. Joe Ross, whose last start came on Sept. 29, stepped in for the three-time Cy Young Award winner and struggled to keep the Astros in the park.
Yordan Alvarez opened the scoring with a two-run shot off Ross in the second inning, and Carlos Correa doubled that lead with a blast two frames later. George Springer added another two-run blast in the ninth, extending an MLB record with the seventh postseason contest in which he and Correa both homer.
It was the first homer of the postseason for Alvarez, who went deep 27 times in 313 regular-season at-bats. The 22-year-old Rookie of the Year frontrunner, usually Houston's DH, was held out of the starting lineup the past two nights despite getting three hits in his first six World Series at-bats. Correa’s long ball came after a base hit by Alvarez, who had hits in all three of his at-bats. It was his third of the postseason for Correa and the first since ALCS Game 4 at Yankee Stadium.
The Nationals apparently tugged on Superman’s cape when they got to Cole for five runs in their Game 1 victory, but Juan Soto still held on to a little bit of kryptonite.
On Sunday, Cole limited Washington to five baserunners over seven innings. Soto, who hit a ball to the Minute Maid Park train tracks in Game 1, came through again with a seventh-inning solo shot. The only other threat against Cole came in the second inning. Soto and Howie Kendrick led off with base hits, but Cole struck out Ryan Zimmerman on a knuckle-curve that was nearly two feet off the center of the plate and got Victor Robles to bounce into a double play.
Cole finished with nine punchouts and two walks, lowering his postseason ERA to 1.72 after five starts spanning 36 2/3 innings. After what is likely his final start of the postseason, he finishes with 47 strikeouts, tying him with Josh Beckett (2003), Randy Johnson (2001) and Cliff Lee (2010) for the second-most in a single postseason. Only Curt Schilling (56 in 2001) had more.
The pressure now falls on Justin Verlander, who’s winless in six career World Series starts, in Game 6 to wrap up Houston’s second championship in three years.
WHO MADE THE DIFFERENCE
Yuli Gurriel: The Astros’ offense was more or less reliant on the home run, but Gurriel delivered a pair of hits, including an RBI single in the seventh. It was Gurriel’s 12th RBI of the postseason, where he’s batting .246 in 65 at-bats. The hit plated Springer, who had the insurance homer, a double and two walks in the victory. Jose Altuve bounced into two double plays, but singled and extended his postseason on-base streak to 25 games.
Joe Smith: Washington scored one run in 10 1/3 innings against the Houston bullpen in the three games at Nationals Park. Smith pitched around Yan Gomes’ lead-off single in a scoreless eighth inning. He’s allowed one run in 8 1/3 postseason innings, including three scoreless frames in the World Series. Ryan Pressly bounced back from an ugly Game 2 performance and recorded the final three outs in order.
Joe Ross: After abruptly getting thrown into the deep end, Ross performed up to any reasonable expectations and kept the Nationals in the game. He yielded seven baserunners and got two double plays. The homers were really his only mistakes, but they were more than enough for Houston. Ross was charged with four runs on five hits and two walks over five innings.
What a night for Jeff Adams, the Nationals fan who, rather than drop the two beers in his hands, took Alvarez’s homer off the chest in the left-field stands. He came up with the ball, too, and extended his 15 minutes of fame into a local TV interview. Oddly enough, if Soto’s homer, which traveled an estimated 383 feet, carried another couple feet, Adams would have had a chance for another souvenir.
Good job getting in front of this baseball and protecting the beer, my guy. pic.twitter.com/dkQLZPjaMp— Cut4 (@Cut4) October 28, 2019
WHAT THEY’LL BE TALKING ABOUT
Washington continued an ugly pattern that they should probably leave at home as the series shifts to Houston. The Nats were hitless in two at-bats with runners in scoring position Sunday and were 1-for-21 with RISP in their three losses at home. Patterns can be a good thing for Washington, however, as the road team has won each game of this series.
Also, there will probably be plenty of people playing the “what-if” game in regards to Scherzer. What if the series goes to a Game 7? Could Scherzer come in at a big spot in Game 6? And finally, there was a special visitor to the Washington suite that has the potential become a subject of conversation.
The unfortunate timing of Scherzer’s injury should serve as a reminder that a lot could happen before Tuesday night’s Game 6 in Houston. But, for now, Verlander and Stephen Strasburg are set to square off at Minute Maid Park, with first pitch scheduled for 8:07 p.m. ET. Strasburg helped the Nats to a Game 2 victory in Houston and has proven to be a reliable postseason performer, sporting a 1.34 ERA in eight October starts.
Also, the series going back to an American League park should mean that Cole will have been the last pitcher to take an at-bat in 2019.
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