Following their comprehensive subjugation of Phillies hitters night before last, the Astros pitching staff kept their foot on the accelerator beginning with a gem of a start by Justin Verlander. Both sides did well to limit runs in this pivotal contest with the Houston pitching staff coming out on top, 3-2.
World Series Game 5
Houston Astros 3, Philadelphia Phillies 2
(HOU leads, 3-2)
Despite finishing the regular season as the qualified ERA leader and presumptive AL Cy Young winner, questions have persisted about Verlander’s ability to pitch in the World Series. He’s had an admittedly spotty record in the Fall Classic in his career, with a 6.07 ERA in eight World Series starts heading into last night including getting shelled in Game 1 to the tune of five runs on six hits in five innings.
The big right-hander answered his critics in a big way last night, holding the Phillies to one run on four hits against six strikeouts in five innings. Verlander’s command was not its sharpest, issuing four free passes on the night, but he worked around those extra baserunners to turn in one of the best World Series starts of his career when his team needed it most.
That one run came in the first when Kyle Schwarber led off with a solo shot down the line in right to give him home runs in back-to-back games.
The Phillies had an opportunity to really punish Verlander for his shaky control in the second when he loaded the bases with two outs issuing walks to Jean Segura and Brandon Marsh followed by a single to Alec Bohm. However, the future Hall of Famer struck out Rhys Hoskins to leave all three ducks on the pond.
As for the Astros, they actually opened the scoring in the top of the first via leadoff double from Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-single from Jeremy Peña.
Their star rookie ended up providing the bulk of the Astros’ offense, giving them their first lead with a home run to lead off the fourth.
That long ball ended Noah Syndergaard’s night having given up the pair of runs in three-plus innings of work totaling 44 pitches. Connor Brogdon came on in relief and was utterly dominant, striking out five in two innings followed by a scoreless sixth from José Alvarado. Surprisingly, it was one of their two dependable late-inning relievers — Seranthony Domínguez — who faltered late, walking Altuve to begin the eighth followed by a Peña single to put runners on the corners for Yordan Alvarez. The prodigious lefty slugger has been having a down World Series by his lofty standards, however his groundout was hit soft enough to score Altuve from third (assisted by a Rhys Hoskins bobble), extending the Astros lead to 3-1.
Pitching behind Verlander, the Houston bullpen which has been so brilliant this postseason continued their excellent work with Héctor Neris and Bryan Abreu combining for two scoreless innings. The one slip-up came in the eighth with Rafael Montero issuing walks to Nick Castellanos and Bryson Stott before Jean Segura punched a single to right to plate Castellanos and cut the deficit to 3-2.
There the scores would remain as the Phillies’ comeback attempt ultimately fell short. Closer Ryan Pressly put out the fire started by Montero in the eighth, with Trey Mancini helping by shaking off the rust during his first inning in the field since October 5th.
Pressly came back out to work a scoreless ninth to seal the Astros’ 3-2 victory and send the series back to Houston a win away from the franchise’s second title in six seasons.
World Series Game 6: Framber Valdez vs. Zack Wheeler
Framber Valdez makes his second start of the World Series with a chance to seal the title. He was nails in Game 2, tossing 6.1 innings allowing a run on four hits against nine strikeouts to lead his team to a series-tying 5-2 victory in Houston. It continues a brilliant stretch of pitching this postseason from the righty, allowing two runs on four hits in 5.2 innings of the Astros’ 4-2 Game 2 ALDS victory over the Mariners and an even more impressive seven innings yielding two unearned runs on four hits against nine strikeouts in the Astros’ 3-2 Game 2 ALCS victory over the Yankees. In 31 regular season starts, Valdez went 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA (137 ERA+), 3.06 FIP, and 194 strikeouts in 201.1 innings.
Zack Wheeler also makes his second start of the Fall Classic hoping to keep his team’s hopes alive. Wheeler was on the losing side of the Game 2 matchup against Valdez, surrendering five runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks against just three strikeouts in five innings. It was by far the worst start of an otherwise impressive postseason from the Phillies’ co-ace, as in the previous four games he had pitched to a 1.78 ERA, 2.36 FIP, and 25:3 strikeout-to-walk ration across 25.1 innings, with the Phillies winning three of those contests. In 26 regular season starts, Wheeler finished at 12-7, also with a 2.82 ERA (144 ERA+), 2.89 FIP, and 163 strikeouts in 153 innings.
So, a rematch of Game 2 starters will determine whether the World Series ends tomorrow or heads to a Game 7 on Sunday. Teams that win Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead have gone on to win the title 70 percent of the time, so definite advantage Astros.