Gerrit Cole and Houston get it done at home

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Astros advance to the ALCS with ALDS Game 5 win over Rays

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After taking the first two games at home in Houston, then falling in back-to-back games at Tropicana Field, the Astros returned home for a winner-take-all ALDS Game 5 with a trip to the ALCS to face the Yankees on the line. After a disappointing start from Justin Verlander on short rest in Game 4, the Astros turned the ball to their other ace, Gerrit Cole, to try and seal the series.

Houston would come away victorious with a huge first inning of offense to back up an incredibly dominant start by Gerrit Cole. The 6-1 win would continue their quest to win their second World Series in three years. Here is a recap of the exciting Game 5 from Houston:

Final Score: Astros 6, Rays 1.

Series: Houston wins 3-2.

Winning Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Glasnow.

Houston gets the hot start they needed

After a scoreless top of the first by Cole, the Astros blasted out the gate against Tyler Glasnow by getting four consecutive hits from the top of their order, including an RBI-single by Jose Altuve, which started the scoring followed by a two-RBI double by Alex Bregman. Yuli Gurriel would push the lead to 4-0 later in the inning with an RBI-single.

Gerrit Cole dominates again in the spotlight

Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole was doing his part on the mound as well. The Rays were able to get one run back off of him with a solo home run to lead off the top of the second, but that would be the only blemish on Gole's otherwise efficient early goings in the game.

He would allow just two baserunners through the middle innings, a leadoff single in the fourth, and a leadoff walk in the seventh. Otherwise, he was getting outs and strikeouts to hold the score at 4-1 while Tampa Bay's bullpen was being equally effective against Houston's bats.

Cole would continue late into the game, working around a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, then getting a 1-2-3 eighth including two strikeouts to bring him to ten on the night, his eleventh-straight start with double-digit strikeouts. He would not be asked to go further, having already provided his team with eight dominant innings of work while reaching a pitch count of 107. His final line in an incredible performance in ALDS Game 5: 8.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10K, 1 HR.

Brantley and Altuve add insurance, Osuna closes it out

After Cole completed his final inning, Houston's offense broke through to score their first runs since the first inning, getting back-to-back solo home runs from Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve to extend the lead to 6-1. Roberto Osuna would enter the game with the five-run lead in the top of the ninth to close things out, and recorded a clean 1-2-3 inning to complete the blowout win at home.

The win in the decisive Game 5 advanced Houston to the ALCS for the third-straight season, and as holders of the best record in baseball, will stay at home to host Games 1 and 2 this weekend.

Up Next: Houston will now advance to the ALCS to face the New York Yankees. Game 1 of the series will be on Saturday in Houston at Minute Maid Park, with first pitch scheduled for 7:08 PM Central. The Astros are expected to start the series with Zack Greinke, considering they had to use Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in Games 4 and 5 of the ALDS. The Yankees have not yet announced their starter.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan

What a week.The Rockets look terrible in losing consecutive games to losing teams, and that doesn't register as the tiniest ripple in the week's pond of Houston sports woe. Pond? More like ocean.

The Astros are irrefutably confirmed for all-time as cheaters and liars over a multi-season period. Jim Crane is no idiot, but specifically on the issue of whether the Astros' 2017 World Series championship is tainted, Jim Crane is an idiot if he really thinks it is not. Astro lackeys, toadies, and homers should stop the "a bunch of other teams did it too!" and "Mike Fiers is an a-hole" lameness. The Astros were guilty, caught, and deserved to get hammered. If/when others are proven as guilty as the Astros, so should they be hammered.

So after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred's lowering of a rightful boom, and then Jim Crane firing Jeff Luhnow and A.J. Hinch, what does it all mean for the 2020 Astros? It's a wow of a story, but really not a crisis. The loss of Gerrit Cole is much more meaningful. Luhnow's shoes are fairly easily filled for this season. Hence for now, Crane himself will head up baseball operations. The Astros weren't and aren't pursuing any meaningful free agents or major trades. Before his demise Luhnow finished the financial corner cutting moves that filled out the roster.

It's not as if Luhnow's personal expertise made all scouting, drafting, and signing decisions. And now the Astros have no first or second round pick to make this June anyway. 30 year old Pete Putila is the ranking baseball guy still employed by the club, but he is a branch of the Luhnow tree. If Crane's goal is the "housecleaning" he termed the Luhnow and Hinch firings as being, how can he promote a Luhnow lieutenant? Every front office in baseball has shrewd analytic minds, looking to move up. Crane can easily hire one of them.

As for field manager, Hinch was a great handler of people (well….with one kind of important exception) but this roster is strong enough to operate on autopilot to a good extent. Bench coach Joe Espada is highly regarded and been a finalist for other managerial gigs. But he was on Hinch's staff when cheating was ongoing in 2018. That seems pretty much disqualifying. Two known interviewees are quality options, though neither has skippered a team to the World Series. Buck Showalter was always extremely highly regarded, John Gibbons steered the Blue Jays to back-to-back American League Championship Series appearances in 2015 and 2016. Between those two I'd lean Showalter but either would be fine.

Remember The Texans

How thankful are Bill O'Brien and the Texans for the Astros' mess grabbing all the headlines not even 24 hours after the Texans' collapse in Kansas City? It's almost impossible to get blown out of an NFL game in which you lead 24-nothing. Almost. The Texans pulled it off! Won't that cute little AFC South Champion banner be extra cute when it hangs next season? Hangs like a dead man from a noose.

As I put it last week, the Chiefs' offense is better than the Texans' offense, the Chiefs' defense better than the Texans' defense, and the Chiefs' coaching better than the Texans' coaching. But the way the game played out was still preposterous.

If Travis Kelce had beaten Lonnie Johnson any worse than he did Johnson's name should have been legally changed to Rented Mule. J.J. Watt was essentially a zero. No tackles, no assists on tackles, no sacks, no quarterback hits. Are you going to pay 15 and a half million dollars to a 31 year old Watt after his three major injuries in the last four seasons. That's a yes.

At least we have clarity that the Texans must dedicate their first round pick to a pass rusher or a defensive back. Wait, they don't have a first round pick. Well, in 2021 then. Wait. Bill O'Brien traded that away too. Speaking of O'Brien…

Opting for the field goal on fourth and one up 21-0 early second quarter was not indefensible. However, O'Brien's explanation for doing so was pitiful. The fake punt? Most agree, dumb.But not absolutely indefensible. This was the O'Brien Is Not Fit For Command moment of the game: He needed to use a timeout, with 11:45 left in the fourth quarter, the Texans down 17, facing fourth and fourth and four, in Chiefs' territory, to decide to go for the first down rather than punt. A cinder block could have displayed the same game management IQ. O'Brien has three seasons left on his contract. Unless Cal McNair takes a decidedly different tack than his father did, O'Brien's job is as safe as any Supreme Court Justice's.

Speaking of Cal, since the loss he's been spotted as often and been as vocal this week as Alex Bregman.

Buzzer Beaters

1. So, if guaranteed the truth: For a million dollars is your bet Altuve was wearing something or not? 2. Alex Cora should be banned from ever again managing a Major League team. 3. Famous "scandals": Bronze-Teapot Dome Silver-Patty Smyth fronted band, had big hit with Goodbye to You Gold-Kerry Washington and the TV show.

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