The Astros are now one win away from winning the series

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Houston takes 3-2 series lead with Game 5 win behind Cole

Gerrit Cole
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Gerrit Cole had a dominant start in World Series Game 5

After falling behind 2-0 in this series by dropping two disappointing games at home to start the World Series, the Astros have responded by taking all three games in D.C. to take a 3-2 lead after a 7-1 win in Game 5. Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, and George Springer each had big two-run home runs, but it was Gerrit Cole who put an exclamation point on an outstanding season with a seven-inning, one-run gem. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Astros 7, Nationals 1.

Series: Astros lead 3-2.

Winning Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.

Losing Pitcher: Joe Ross.

Houston jumps out in front for third straight game

For the third straight game, it was Houston scoring first to take the wind out of Nationals Park. With Max Scherzer a late scratch, it was Joe Ross who would fill in on the mound for Washington and get tagged by a couple of big hits early in Game 5. The first came in the top of the second, where a one-out infield single by Yuli Gurriel would bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who was given the assignment to play left field so that Houston could have his big bat in the lineup for a closely-contested game. That decision paid off, as Alvarez would get his first postseason home run, a two-run shot to straightaway center to put the Astros up 2-0.

Alvarez would be a factor in another scoring play in the top of the fourth, keeping the inning alive with a two-out single. He advanced to second on a wild pitch in an at-bat against Carlos Correa, but that would end up being inconsequential as Correa would drill a ball over the left-field wall to double Houston's lead at 4-0.

A fitting end to Cole's season

Assuming Cole isn't asked to work on very short rest in a potential Game 7, his last appearance of the 2019 season mirrored that of many he had in what will go down as one of the most dominant years of pitching in Astros franchise history. He allowed back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom of the second, a walk in the fourth but did not allow a run until one out into the bottom of the seventh.

That came by way of a solo home run by Juan Soto, cutting Houston's lead to 4-1. Cole went on to complete that inning despite allowing another walk, finishing with his ninth strikeout to give him a seven-inning, one-run start to add to his spectacular resume as he enters free agency at the end of this series. His final line and possibly final start in an Astros uniform: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR.

Houston adds insurance and are now one win away

George Springer led off the top of the eighth with a double into the gap in right-center field, then moved to third on a groundout by Jose Altuve. The Nationals then intentionally walked Michael Brantley to face Alex Bregman, who would pop out to shallow right to keep Springer at third. He was followed by Yuli Gurriel, who came through to score Springer on an RBI-Single to make it a four-run game again at 5-1.

With two innings to cover and a four-run lead, Houston brought in Joe Smith as the first arm out of the bullpen for the bottom of the eighth. Smith would hold the lead, working around a leadoff single to throw a scoreless frame and send the game on to the ninth. In the top of the ninth, George Springer tacked on two more insurance runs with a two-run home run of his own, making it a 7-1 lead.

The Astros would give the bottom of the ninth to Ryan Pressly, who would wrap up the six-run win. The victory has Houston just one more win away from the Commissioner's Trophy. After falling behind 2-0, taking three games on the road in D.C. is monumental for this team that will come back to Houston for Game 6 and a Game 7, if necessary.

Up Next: The Astros and Nationals will have a travel day on Monday before resuming this series in Houston. Game 6 will be another 7:07 PM Central start from Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. While not yet fully confirmed, the expected pitching matchup is a rematch of Game 2 with Stephen Strasburg on the mound for Washington and Justin Verlander for Houston.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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