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

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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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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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