Phillies vs. Astros Score: Houston takes World Series lead with Game 5 road win

Phillies vs. Astros Score: Houston takes World Series lead with Game 5 road win

The Houston Astros are one win away from their second World Series title in franchise history. The Astros hung on to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park on Thursday night (HOU 3, PHARMACO 2), giving Houston a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7 will be played at Minute Maid Park this weekend.

In the first inning, it looked like Game 5 was going to be a mayhem game with a lot of runs and a lot of craziness, but that mayhem game never materialized. Game 5 became a quasi pitcher’s duel with plenty of turnovers and missed opportunities on both sides. The two teams combined to go 2 for 18 with runners in scoring position.

Here are some takeaways from Game 5 with a quick look at Game 6.

1. There was a huge swing in the first innings

If you believe in momentum in sports, the first inning was a huge swing in the first game. Jose Altuve led off Game 5 with a double and ended up at third base on an error by Brandon Marsh. The next batter, Jeremy Peña, drove him in with an infield single to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. The Phillies had an infield in the first inning! You don’t see that often.

Two strikes into the game, it was clear that Noah Syndergaard wasn’t going to be there much longer. He fully counted Yordan Alvarez, and the Astros had Peña on the field 3-2. Alvarez swung through a high fastball and JT Realmuto struck out Peña for the rally kill. This throw was picture perfect:

Had Alvarez taken a high fastball, the Astros have runners on first and second with no outs and Syndergaard on the ropes. Instead, the bases were empty with two outs, and Syndergaard had new life. He struck out Alex Bregman to end the inning and Kyle Schwarber picked up his pitcher with another lead off homer in the bottom of the first.

Schwarber’s leadoff homer was the 26th in World Series history and the first ever by a Phillie. It was also Schwarber’s third postseason leadoff homer, tying Jimmy Rollins and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter for the most all-time. He’s one of the best fastballers in the game and was ready for Justin Verlander’s elevated heater.

Thanks to a double play and Schwarber’s homer, the Astros went from leading 1-0 and threatening to put the wrong number on the board to a 1-1 tie in the span of six pitches. Let’s look at some basic winning probabilities:

  • Alvarez takes ball 4 (first and second, no outs): The Phillies have a 34.6 percent chance to win Game 5
  • After you knock them out, knock them out with a double play: The Phillies have a 47.3 percent chance of winning Game 5
  • After Schwarber’s game-tying homer: The Phillies have a 59.4 percent chance of winning Game 5

That’s a huge difference in win probability, especially in such a short period of time (three batters and six pitches). The Phillies still lost Game 5, but that first inning prevented Houston from running away early. The game remained close and competitive until the final pitch, thanks in large part to a double play and Schwarber’s first-inning homer.

2. Houston’s hitless streak ended

The Phillies were no-hit by Cristian Javier and three Astros relievers in Game 4. Beginning in the sixth inning of Game 3, Philadelphia’s offense went 11 consecutive scoreless innings, a World Series record 0-for-36. No team has ever fired more between goals in the Fall Classic.

It didn’t take long for the Phillies to get in the hitting column in Game 2. Schwarber sent Verlander’s second ball into right field for a leadoff homer and Philadelphia’s first hit since Rhys Hoskins drove Lance McCullers Jr. deep. in the 5th game. 0 for a streak of 36 is over. Houston’s 11-inning hitless streak tied the 1939 Yankees for the longest in World Series history.

3. Peña continues to hit

The first RBI single of the inning gave Peña a hit in all five World Series games (and a six-hit streak dating back to the ALCS) and added to his World Series hit total with a go-ahead homer in the fourth inning. He drove Syndergaard’s 44th and final pitch over the left-field wall to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. This didn’t seem to work out, but it did come out:

Peña is the first rookie ever – ever! — for a homer in the World Series. The home run was Peña’s ninth extra-base hit this October (five doubles and four homers), third most ever by a rookie in a single postseason. Only Randy Arozarena (14 in 20 games in 2020) and Yuli Gurriel (10 in 18 games in 2017) had more extra base hits as rookies in the postseason.

In the eighth inning, Peña helped the Astros secure an insurance run with a textbook hit-and-run single to right field. He went 3-for-4 in Game 5 and 8-for-21 (.381) in the World Series overall. There’s at least one game left to play, but at this point Peña is as good a choice for World Series MVP as anyone. And this is after winning the ALCS MVP, remember.

4. Verlander finally won the World Series

No pitcher in history has started more World Series games without a win than Verlander. Entering Game 5, he was 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight career World Series starts, including blowing a 5-0 lead in the first game of the series. It wasn’t easy, but Verlander finally got his first World Series win in Game 5. Actually, it wasn’t just Verlander’s first World Series win. That was the first time he’s walked out of a World Series game with a lead, if you can believe that.

“Oh yeah, I got a lot of confidence. I mean, this guy’s had a great career and it’s not over yet,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said of Verlander before Game 5. “…We had a lot of confidence in Justin Everybody’s wondering that is he on a short leash? I mean, no, he doesn’t have a leash at all. I mean, he’s Justin Verlander. Nobody can get out of trouble better than him. I’ve seen it over and over and over, and I hope he doesn’t fall in trouble and I just hope he’s Verlander.”

The Phillies had their chances against Verlander early in Game 5. After Schwarber’s leadoff homer, the Phillies stranded a runner on first in the first inning, left the bases loaded in the second, then stranded first and second in the third. Six runners were stranded in the first three innings. You can’t keep letting Verlander off the hook like that and expect to win. Hoskins, Bryson Stott and Nick Castellanos all ended innings with ducks on the pond.

Five of the first 10 batters Verlander faced reached base, then he settled down and retired 10 of the last 13 batters he faced to get through five innings. Verlander walked four, his most in a game since June 2019, and Schwarber’s home run was his 10th allowed in the World Series. That’s the most ever. But a win is a win, and Verlander now has one in the World Series.

Also, Verlander’s career 6.07 ERA entering Game 5 was the highest in World Series history (min. 30 innings). He dropped that to a 5.63 ERA with one run in five innings Thursday night and no longer sits atop the leaderboard. Carl Erskine’s 5.83 ERA is once again the highest in World Series history. That’s not a statistic you want to keep. Verlander got out of the lead and won Game 5.

5. The Phillies couldn’t get The Big Hit; Astros Get The Big Play(s)

The Phillies had scoring chances in Game 5 and not just against Verlander. They put 10 runners on base in the first seven innings, but scored just one run on Schwarber’s homer. Philadelphia’s best chance to break through came in the eighth, when they drove in two against Rafael Montero and Jean Segura lined a single to right to put the Phillies up 3-2.

Segura’s single snapped his team’s 0-for-20 rut with runners in scoring position dating back to the first game. It is the third-longest hitless streak with runners in scoring position in World Series history. Only the 1966 Dodgers and 1980 Royals (both 0 for 22) had longer streaks. Given that, and the fact that the Astros went 5-0 in three of the first four games, it’s a wonder the series is this competitive.

Segura’s single set up the Phillies with runners on the corners and one out, prompting Baker to ground out to closer Ryan Pressly. Pressly quickly struck out Marsh on three pitches, and then Trey Mancini saved the game with a great jab on Schwarber’s hard-hit grounder to first base. If this goes Mancini’s way, he’ll likely score two runs to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.

Schwarber and Bryce Harper combined to go 8 for 23 (.348) with three homers and nine walks in the World Series. On the other end of the spectrum, Hoskins, Realmuto and Castellanos are a combined 9 for 62 (.145) with 28 strikeouts. You’re not going to win many games, let alone beat a team as good as the Astros, with three of your biggest bats. that. To be fair to Realmut, he was robbed of extra bases by Chas McCormick in the ninth inning of Game 5. This was a huge catch:

The fact is, the Phillies hammered McCullers for five homers in less than five innings in Game 3, and since then have scored just two runs in 21 offensive innings. It’s very simple, either the Phillies’ bats wake up in Game 6, or they lose the series. Their pitching has been pretty good in this series, but the guys on the mound need more support.

6. Gurriel finally struck

It took 49 appearances, but Gurriel finally struck out this postseason. Connor Brogdon picked him up with an elevated fastball to end the top of the fourth inning. The 49 plate appearances without a strikeout are the third most ever to start a postseason. Here is the leaderboard:

  1. Joey Cora, 1995 Mariners: 51 (all his postseason appearances)
  2. David Eckstein, 2006 Cardinals. 50
  3. Yuli Gurriel, 2022 Astros: 49
  4. Yuli Gurriel, 2019 Astros: 48
  5. Tim Foley, 1979 Pirates: 48 (all his postseason appearances)

Gurriel entered Game 5 with a career hitting line of .266/.321/.387 in 352 postseason plate appearances, and was 16 for 47 (.340) with two homers and a walk before being ejected this postseason. Hitting the ball against top pitching is a very valuable skill in October and Gurriel certainly has it, even at 38 years old.

It should be noted that Gurriel left Game 5 in the eighth inning, one inning after taking an inadvertent knee to the head during a rundown. Gurriel slipped and fell, and Hoskins tripped over him as he made the tag. He was replaced by Mancini, who then saved the game on Schwarber’s pitch in the eighth inning.

7. The Astros are on the cusp of a title

Historically, teams leading 3-2 in best-of-seven games have won the series 70 percent of the time, including 68 percent of the time in the World Series. The Astros are sitting pretty and now have two chances to win one game and capture the second championship in franchise history (also in 2017). Additionally, Houston was in the same position in 2019, then lost Game 6 and 7 at home to the Washington Nationals. The last victory is always the hardest.

8. Next

Friday is travel day and the World Series will resume Saturday night in Houston. One way or another, the World Series will be decided at Minute Maid Park for the third time in the last four years, and in Texas for the fourth year in a row. Game 2 starters Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.28 ERA) and Framber Valdez (17-6, 2.82 ERA) will be on the mound in Game 6.

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