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

Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

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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Dustin Johnson already committed to play in the Houston Open. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

Golfers around the world have been able to enjoy playing 18 holes despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as golf has been deemed a "social-distancing" sport. Houston golfers have been rewarded this year with a newly renovated Memorial Park course that is already being spruced up in preparation for the upcoming Houston Open.

The PGA's adjusted schedule has the tour coming to Houston November 2-8, a week before the Masters.

Current hope is for the Houston Open being played in front of cheering fans, according to tournament director, Colby Callaway. Callaway recently talked with SportsMap about what fans and players can expect when the Houston Open returns to Memorial Park for the first time since 1963.

SportsMap: What is the Houston Open's current position in regard to fans in attendance?

Colby Callaway: Currently we are working on a number of contingency plans and exploring all sorts of options. I wish we could say 'this is our plan' right now, and put that thing in concrete, but I just can't. 2020 is causing all of us grief in all sorts of imaginative ways, and it's certainly creating some chaos when it comes to putting a plan together for us. We're all committed to being as flexible in our planning as possible and will adjust as need be. We do think we'll have an idea very soon, and hope to announce some sort of plan over the next couple of weeks.

SM: What can Houstonians look forward to with the new course at Memorial Park?

CC: Well it's a really fun course. Players can absolutely bomb drives. The key will be their approach shots and how they navigate the sticky rough and very tricky green complexes. Several holes were re-routed and in doing so it provided some great spectator viewing areas. There is a fantastic spot where the Par 3 2nd hole, the Par 5 3rdHole, and the Par 3 7th all come together. It'll be a great area to sit and watch golf all day long. The Par 3 9th will be a great viewing spot for spectators as well. On the backside, lots of risk and reward comes into play on 15, 16 and 17. Water becomes a big factor on all 3 holes so a sense of caution is created, but the temptation to do something spectacular is there as well. It's going to be a very exciting stretch.

SM: What changes to the golf course will Memorial Park golfers find following the tournament?

CC: Two things in particular will benefit Memorial Park golfers. First the range will be fully functional by then. It's been open awhile now, but limited in spots to what you could hit club wise. By the time the event rolls around we'll have expanded the range so you can bring and hit any club in your bag. Yes, the big dog (driver) will now be able to hunt!

The other nice addition is an oversized putting green and chipping area that was created adjacent to the 1st tee and 18th green. It's a much-needed improvement. The finished product will be a great spot for the casual golfer to roll some putts and work on his or her short game.

SM: When will Memorial Park Golf Course be closed to the public before the tournament?

CC: The plan is to close it down sometime during the week before the tournament. We'll be working around golfers for approximately 20 days leading up to the event building our operational needs. As a casual golfer it's a fun time to play. There is definitely a little more activity in and around the course, but it's a lot of fun to watch the progress of the build.

SM: What special COVID-19 safety precautions will be in place during the tournament?

CC: We'll have a plan above and beyond what is required per the rules and guidelines we are given. We are currently working with our operational partners to make sure we're all on the same page when it some to these regulations. I can promise we'll error on the side of caution, and make sure our patrons feel safe when they enter the grounds. The positive is we have over 250 acres of green grass and fresh air to socially distance on. A golf course truly does have its advantages.

SM: Are you under any pressure to bring fans to the tournament because of its placement a week before the Masters?

CC: I don't think so. Speaking for our team, I know they don't feel any pressure. Maybe if this was a different year, and we didn't have all of the uncertainty swirling around, there would be some. It's just not something we are going to put any energy into worrying about this fall. We have enough on our plate.

SM: In prior years, Golf Club of Houston made efforts to replicate conditions at Augusta National. Will you be doing the same?

CC: No. Honestly even if we wanted to we couldn't. With the time of year we are in it's really impossible to over-seed, and that's the only way to create those iconic Masters-like conditions. Now we'll do everything asked of us by the TOUR to make it the best 2020 Houston Open course condition wise. They ultimately put the competition plan together. That plan includes among other things: required rough height, green speeds, and tee to green yardages. I know Jason Harsh, Director of Golf for the Houston Parks and Rec Department, will have his team prepare the course to the best of their abilities. One plus when you are a course that hosts a PGA TOUR event is you receive year-long plans and assistance from the PGA TOUR Agronomy Department. That's big for the event, but also a nice plus for all of us who enjoy playing Memorial year around. Following these plans course conditions will continue to get better and better each year.

SM: You have a lot of experience managing golf tournaments, most recently serving as the tournament director of AT&T's PGA Tour Champions event in San Antonio. How will your experiences help you to execute a successful Houston Open?

CC: It's crazy to think this is my 20th year being a part of a team that manages professional golf events. Even crazier to think that less than a year ago I felt like I had seen it all when it comes to things that could affect golf tournaments. I've worked events since 2000 that have experienced tornadoes, floods, hail, high winds, sleet, drought, dead greens, etc… but no one ever said we'd deal with a pandemic. Good Lord, maybe I've stayed in the business a little too long!

Kidding aside, fortunately I've spent most of those 20 years working for and with some of the best in the business. I've kept my eyes and ears open, and maybe most importantly learned to adapt to the situation at hand. Concrete plans do not exist in the professional golf world as Mother Nature will always have the last say. You put a plan together, but always must remain fluid and have contingency plans in your back pocket. Of course, this is unlike anything I've ever had to deal with. We will, however, figure this out and do our best to put on a really successful, and safe, Houston Open.

SM: The Astros Foundation is well known to support youth baseball and softball programs, how will the new partnership between the Foundation and the Houston Open bring more opportunities to junior golf in Houston?

CC: Junior golfers will benefit greatly from the Houston Open moving to Memorial Park. The Astros Golf Foundation is finishing up a par 3 course, which sits adjacent to the 1st fairway and 18th fairway, that will allow participants in the First Tee program an opportunity to hone their skills year around.

The Astros Golf Foundation will continue to support the First Tee financially as well with a yearly donation of $500K. The First Tee is an incredible program and I know our team loves being a part of their growth.

Also via a generous partnership with Chevron, the Astros Golf Foundation is building the Chevron Center for Education & Kids. This classroom style space will be housed in the new Astros Golf Foundation building currently under construction behind the 9th green at Memorial Park. This center will be open year around and will host students from all over the Houston area teaching them skills within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) academic disciplines.

The best way to receive information about the event is to follow socially. Our social handles are located below.

www.houstonopengolf.com

@houopengolf on Twitter / Instagram

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