The Houston Astros one win separates their second World Championship title in franchise history. The Astros held on to defeat the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 5 at Citizens Bank Park Thursday night (HOU 3, PHI 2), giving Houston a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series. Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7 will be played at Minute Maid Park this weekend.
In the first half it turned out that Game 5 would be a chaos game with a lot of running and a lot of craziness, but this game of chaos never materialized. Game 5 has become a semi-shooter duel with plenty of traffic and missed opportunities on both sides. The two teams went combined 2 for 18 with the runners in the scoring position.
Here are some tips from Game 5 with a quick look at Game 6.
1. There was a huge momentum swing in the first half
If you believe in momentum in the sport, the first half was a massive swing in Game 1. Jose Altoff opened Game 5 with a weakness and ended up at third base on Brandon Marsh’s fault. The next hitter, Jeremy Peña, drove him inside with a single shot through the plotted field to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Velez was degrading in the first half! You don’t see that often.
Two hitters in the game, it was clear that Noah Sendergaard wouldn’t be there for long. He did the whole count on Yordan Alvarez and the Astros fought Peña on the field 3-2. Alvarez swung through a high-speed ball and knocked out JT Realmoto Peña for the killer rally blow, throwing them in double play. This throw was picture perfect:
Had Alvarez taken the high speedball, the Astros would have had riders in first and second place with no teams, and Synergaard is in gear. Instead, the bases were empty with two outsiders, and Syndergaard had a new life. Alex Bergman hit to finish the game and Kyle Schwarber picked up his pitcher with a second lead on the court at the bottom of the first.
Schwarber’s lead Homer was the 26th in world championship history and the first ever by Phillie. It was also Schwarber’s third post-season job, linking Jimmy Rollins and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter to the most in history. He’s one of the best Fastball high hitters in the game and was ready for the high heat of Justin Verlander out there.
Thanks to double play and Schwarber’s teammate, the Astros went from leading 1-0 and threatening to put a crooked number on the board to tie the game 1-1 over a six-pitch range. Let’s look at some basic odds of winning:
- Alvarez takes ball 4 (runners in first and second, inseparable): Phillies have a 34.6% chance of winning the game 5
- After the hit, throw it out of double play: Phillies have a 47.3% chance of winning the fifth game
- After Homer Schwarber linked to the game: Phillies have a 59.4% chance of winning the game 5
This is a huge winning probability swing, especially in such a short period of time (three strokes and six strokes). The Phillies lost Game 5 anyway, but that first round prevented Houston from escaping with it early. The game remained close and competitive all the way to the final court thanks to double play and Schwarber’s boot in the first half.
2. Houston’s harmless streak is over
Velez Christian Javier and three Astros painkillers were not injured in Game 4. Dating back to the sixth inning of Game 3, Philadelphia’s offensive has gone 11 straight uninjured, which marked the championship’s 0-for-36 world record. No team has ever gone to bat more in between hits at a Fall Classic.
It didn’t take Velez long to hit the hit column in game two. Schwarber sent Verlander’s second pitch to the right field bench for Homer’s first Philadelphia hit since Rhys Hoskins took Lance McCullers Jr. deep in Game Five. 0 ended for 36 streaks. Houston’s 11-lose streak tied the Yankees in 1939 for the longest run in World Series history.
3. Peña keeps hitting
The first one RBI in the first inning gave Peña a hit in all five World Series games (and a six-game hitting streak going back to ALCS) and added to his world hit total with Homer fourth in the green. He pushed Syndergaard’s 44th and final court over the left field wall to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. This doesn’t look like it went off the bat, but it came out:
Peña is the first ever rookie short player – ever! – To Homer at the World Championships. The home run was Peña’s ninth extra-base run in October (five pairs and four Reptiles), and the third-all-time rookie to score in a single season after the season ended. Only Randy Arrosarina (14 in 20 games in 2020) and Yuli Gouriel (10 in 18 games in 2017) had more key kicks as starters in the post-season.
In the eighth inning, Peña helped give the Astros an insurance boost with one hammer in the right field in the hit and run textbook. He’s 3 for 4 in a game of 5 and is 8 for 21 (.381) in the World Championships overall. There’s still at least one more game for you to play, but at this point Peña is as good a pick for the world’s top player as anyone. And that’s after winning the ALCS MVP award, remember.
4. Verlander finally wins the world championship
No player in history has started more World Championship matches without scoring a win from Verlander. Entering Game 5, he was 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight career World Championship starts, including a 5-0 lead in Game 1 of the series. It wasn’t easy, but Verlander finally won his first world championship in Game Five. In fact, it was not only Verlander’s first World Championship win. It was the first time he’d come out of a World Championship match with his lead, if you can believe it.
“Oh, yeah, I have a lot of confidence. I mean, this guy’s had an amazing career and it’s not over yet”… We’ve got complete confidence in Justin. Everyone is wondering, is he tied up short? I mean, no, he doesn’t have a leash at all. I mean, it’s Justin Verlander. Nobody can get out of trouble better than him. I’ve seen it over and over and over again, I hope it doesn’t get in trouble and I just wish it was Verlander.”
Velez’s side had a chance against Verlander early in the fifth game. After Schwarber crushed the lead, Phillies cut a runner at first base in the first inning, left bases loaded in the second, and stranded the runners in first and second in third. Six contestants were stranded in the first three innings. You can’t let Verlander go out like that and expect to win. Hoskins, Bryson Stott, and Nick Castellanos all finished the rounds with ducks in the pond.
Five of Verlander’s top 10 hitters made it to base, then settled and retired 10 of the last 13 hits he faced to get past five innings. Verlander has walked four times, his most in a match since June 2019, and Schwarber at home was the 10th allowed in the world championships. This is more than ever. But a win is a win, and Verlander now has a World Championship win.
Also, Verlander’s 6.07 ERA run entering Game 5 was the highest in World Championship history (at least 30 rounds). He lowered that to 5.63 ERA with one in five rounds on Thursday night and no longer sits atop the leaderboard. Karl Erskine’s 5.83 Era is again the highest in World Championship history. This is not the statistic you want to lead. Verlander was knocked out of the lead and won in Game Five.
5. Phillies Couldn’t Get The Big Hit; Astros got the big play
The Phillies had chances to score in Game 5 and not just against Verlander. They put 10 riders on the base in the first seven rounds but scored the only stroke over Homer Schwarber. Philadelphia’s best breakout opportunity came in eighth, when they put two goals past Rafael Monteiro, and Jan Segura scored a one-stroke right to lead the Phillies to a 3-2 win.
One Segura’s rut cut his team 0-for-20 with runners in the scoring position going back to Game 1. This is the third-longest non-hit streak with runners in the 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 are leading 5-0 in three of the first four games, it’s a miracle that this series is competitive.
Segura’s single put the Phillies in with the runners in the corners and one out, prompting Baker to get close to Ryan Pressly. Presley hit Marsh’s speed on three pitches, then Tre Mancini saved the match with a massive stab on a heavily-impressed Schwarber hitter to first base. If he gets this by Mancini, he will likely score twice and give Velez a 4-3 lead.
Schwarber and Bryce Harper combined 8 for 23 (.348) with three Homer’s and nine World Championship walks. On the other end of the spectrum, Hoskins, Realmuto and Castellanos are 9 for 62 (.145) with 28 strokes. You won’t win many matches, let alone beat a good team like the Astros, with three of your biggest bats doing who – which. To be fair to Realmuto, Stolen from Extra Bases by Chas McCormick in the ninth inning of Game 5. This was a huge catch:
The fact of the matter is that the Phillies McCullers have hit five teammates in less than five rounds in Game 3, and they’ve only scored two runs in 21 offensive rounds since. It’s very simple, either the Phillies’ bats wake up in game 6, or you’ll lose the chain. They’ve done well a lot in this series, but the guys up in the hill need a little more support.
6. Gurriel is finally crossed out
It took 49 panel appearances, but Gurriel finally brought out this postseason. Conor Brogdon fanned him with a quick high cup to finish off the top of the fourth inning. A 49-board appearance without a run is the third on record for a post-season start. Here is the leaderboard:
- Joey Cora, 1995 Mariners: 51 (all of his post-season panel appearances)
- David Eckstein, 2006 Cardinals: 50
- Yuli Gouriel, 2022 Astros: 49
- Yuli Gouriel, 2019 Astros: 48
- Tim Foley, The Pirate 1979: 48 (all of his post-season panel appearances)
Gurriel entered Game 5 with a career .266/.321/.387 in 352 post-season board appearances, going 16-for-47 (.340) with two creepers and a walk before this postseason came out. Getting the bat on the ball in the face of a sophisticated shooter is a very valuable skill in October, and Goriel certainly has it, even at the age of 38.
Notably, Gurriel was knocked out of Game 5 in the eighth inning, in the first after being inadvertently kicked in the head during a rundown. Goriel slipped and got off, and Hoskins stumbled over him while placing the sign. He was replaced by Mancini, who played a match saver on Schwarber’s hitter in the eighth inning.
7. The stars on the cusp of the title
Historically, teams that have advanced 3-2 in the top seven out of seven have gone on to win the series 70 percent of the time, including 68 percent of the time in the World Championships. The Astros are sitting pretty pretty, and they now have two chances to win one game to win the second championship in franchise history (also 2017). However, Houston was in the same position in 2019, then lost their sixth and seventh home games to the Washington Nationals. The last win is always the hardest.
Friday is the travel day and the World Championships will resume on Saturday night in Houston. One way or another, the World Championships will be decided at Minute Maid Park for the third time in the past four years, and in Texas for the fourth year in a row. Game 2 novices Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.28 ERA) and Framber Valdez (17-6, 2.82 ERA) will be on the pile in Game 6.
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