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.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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