Phillies vs. Astros score: Houston takes the lead in the World Series with a nail-biting Game 5 win on the road.

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

In the first round, Game 5 appeared to be a chaotic game with lots of runs and lots of craziness, but that chaotic game never materialized. Game 5 turned into a quasi-pitcher’s duel with plenty of traffic and wasted chances on both sides. The two teams went a combined 2-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

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

1. There was a big swing in the first innings.

If you believe in momentum in sports, the first inning was a huge swing in Game 1 when Jose Altuve led off Game 5 with a double and wound up at third on a Brandon Marsh error. The next batter, Jeremy Pena singled into the infield to give the Tenth a 1-0 lead. In the first inning, the Phillies hit an infield! You don’t see that very often.

Two batters into the game, it was clear that Noah Syndergaard would not be out for long. Jordan Alvarez drove in a full count to give the Astros a 3-2 lead over Pena. Alvarez swung a high fastball and JT Realmuto threw out Pena for the kill strike, throwing him into a double play. This throw was picture perfect:

Had Alvarez taken the high fastball, the Astros would 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 game. Kyle Schwarber picked up the first baseman with a leadoff homer on the second pitch.

Schwarber’s leadoff homer was the 26th in World Series history and the first in Philly. It was also Schwarber’s third postseason leadoff homer, tying Jimmy Rollins and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter in all-time. He is one of the best fastball players in the game and was there ready to warm up for Justin Verland.

Thanks to the double play and Schwarber’s homer, the Astros took a 1-0 lead and threatened to put an odd number on the board, with the game tied at 1-1 after six pitches. Let’s look at some basic winning odds:

  • Alvarez takes ball 4 (runners on first and second, no outs); The Phillies have a 34.6 percent chance of winning Game 5.
  • After hitting them, pull out 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 pretty big win, especially in such a short period of time (with three sticks and six pitches). Anyway, the Phillies went on to lose Game 5, but that first inning kept Houston from getting away early. The game remained close and competitive until the very end.

2. Houston’s no-hitter streak is over

The Phillies were no-hit by Cristian Javier and three Astros relievers in Game 4. Heading into the sixth inning of Game 3, Philadelphia’s offense had gone 11 consecutive hitless innings, a World Series record 0-for-36. No team has ever gone more at-bats between hits in the Fall Classic.

It didn’t take long for the Phillies to get into the loss column in Game 2. Schwarber sent Verlander’s second pitch into the right field seats for a leadoff homer and Philadelphia’s first hit after Rhys Hoskins picked off Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 5. 0 for 36 line is over. Houston’s 11-inning hitless streak In 1939, he tied the Yankees for the longest streak in World Series history.

3. Pena continues to strike

A first-inning RBI single extended Pena’s streak to five World Series games (and the start of his six-game hitting streak against the ALCS) and his World Series total on a fourth-inning go-ahead homer. He hammered Syndergaard’s 44th and final pitch over the left field wall to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. It didn’t look like this right off the bat, but it did.

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

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

4. Verlander finally gets a World Series win.

Head shot

He has started more World Series without a win in history than Verlander. Entering Game 5, he was 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight career World Series starts, including going 5-0 in Game 1 of this series. It wasn’t easy, though Verlander finally got his first World Series win in Game 5. Actually, it wasn’t just Verlander’s first World Series victory. If you can believe that, that’s the first time he’s come out of a World Series game with a lead.

“Oh, yeah, I’ve 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’ve got a lot of confidence in Justin. Everybody’s wondering, is he on a short leash? I mean, no, he’s got no leash at all. I mean, he’s Justin Verlander. There’s nobody who gets out of trouble. I’ve seen him better than him. Over and over, and he’s trouble. I hope he doesn’t go in and it’s Verland.

The Phillies took their chances against Verlander in the top of Game 5. After Schwarber hit a leadoff homer, the Phillies stranded runners on the first inning, left balls on second, went on first and third. Six runners were stranded in the first three innings. You can’t let Verlander off the hook like that and expect him to win. Hoskins, Bryson Stott and Nick Castellanos all ended the inning with ducks on the pond.

Five of the first 10 batters he faced came before Verlander arrived, then sat down and retired 10 of the 13 batters he faced over five innings. Verlander’s most walks in a game since June 2019 are four, and Schwaber’s home run is the 10th he’s allowed in the World Series. That’s more than 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 lowered that to a 5.63 ERA with one run in five innings Thursday night and stayed off the leaderboard. Carl Erskine’s 5.83 ERA is again the highest in World Series history. This is not a statistic you want to lead. Verlander came out on top and won Game 5.

5. Phyllis Couldn’t Get The Big Hit; The Astros got the big game(s).

The Phillies were getting scoring chances in Game 5, not just against Verlander. They put 10 runners on base through the first seven innings but only scored one run on a Schwarber homer. Philadelphia’s best inning came in the eighth, when they beat Rafael Montero with two out and Jean Segura singled to right to put the Phillies up 3-2.

Segura’s single snapped the team’s 0-for-20 streak with runners in scoring position since Game 1. This is the third-longest no-hitter in World Series history by a runner. Only the 1966 Dodgers and 1980 Royals (both 0 for 22) had longer streaks. With that in mind, and the fact that the Astros went 5-0 in three of the first four games, it’s a miracle.

Segura’s single put the Phillies with runners on the corners and one out, prompting Baker to ground out to Ryan Pressley. He quickly hit Marsh with three pitches in the press, then Trey Mancini saved the game with a grand slam to first on a hard-hit groundout by Schwaber. This one by Mancini probably would have scored two runs to give the Phillies a 4-3 lead.

Schwarber and Bryce Harper are a combined 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 don’t win a lot of games, let alone beat a team as good as the Astros, with your three big bats working. That’s what he said.. To be fair to Realmuto, Chase McCormick stole an extra base in the ninth inning of Game 5. It was an amazing experience.

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

6. Gurriel finally hit it

It took 49 plate appearances, but Gurriel finally hit this postseason. Connor Brogdon backed him up with a high fastball to end the top of the fourth inning. The 49 plate appearances are the third since he started the postseason without a hit. Here is the leaderboard:

  1. Joey Cora, 1995 Crew: 51 (all seen after the action)
  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 seen after the action)

Gurriel entered Game 5 with a 266/.321/.387 batting line in 352 plate appearances, and had gone 16-for-47 (.340) before hitting this postseason. Getting the bat off the ball is a very valuable skill in October and Gurriel certainly has it, even at 38 years old.

It’s worth noting that Gurriel exited Game 5 in the eighth inning after taking an inadvertent knee to the head. Gurriel slides down, and Hoskins stumbles over him as he applies the tag. He was replaced by Mancini, then made the game-saving play on Schwarber’s grounder in the eighth inning.

7. The Astros are on the cusp of a title.

In the best-of-seven series in history, teams with 3-2 leads have won 70 percent of the series, including 68 percent of the time in the World Series. The Astros are sitting pretty, and now have two chances to win the second championship in franchise history (plus 2017) and win one game. That said, Houston was in the same spot in 2019, then lost Games 6 and 7 to the Washington Nationals. The final victory is always the hardest.

8. Next

Friday is travel day and the World Series resumes 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 for the fourth straight year in Texas. Game 2 starters Zach 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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