Philadelphia — Justin Verlander overcame an early jolt to grit out the World Series win that long eluded him, rookie Jeremy Peña hit a go-ahead home run and the Houston Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Thursday night to head home with a 3-2 lead.
Buoyed by late defensive gems from Trey Mancini and Chas McCormick, the Astros moved to the brink of their second championship – the other was a scandal-tainted title in 2017. They can close it out Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
Verlander is among just five Astros remaining from the team caught using video to steal signs in ’17. He had been 0-6 with an unseemly 6.07 ERA in eight Series starts dating to his rookie season with Detroit in 2006, a blotch in the career of the 244-game winner likely to earn his third Cy Young Award this season.
Pitching with an extra day of rest for his arm and stubble on his face, the 39-year-old right-hander gave up one run and four hits over five innings with four walks and six strikeouts – including four in a row in the fourth and fifth. He lowered that Series ERA to 5.63.
CBSSports.com’s Matt Snyder observed that, “In his seventh career World Series start, spanning 16 years and three different decades, this was his first win. And while we know the win-loss record isn’t close to the best metric by which a pitcher is measured, he had earned pretty much every bit of his record to this point. No more.
“It wasn’t the prettiest outing … but he gutted his way through five innings and led his team to … victory”
Houston went ahead just four pitches in against Noah Syndergaard on Peña’s run-scoring single. Then Philly’s Kyle Schwarber homered leading off the bottom half, harkening to the five-run lead Verlander wasted in Houston’s opening 6-5, 10-inning loss.
Peña had three hits, including an RBI single in the first and an eighth-inning single that set up Yordan Alvarez’s run-scoring groundout. He made a leaping catch at shortstop to foil the Phillies in the third, then regained the lead an inning later with his fourth postseason homer. He’s the first rookie shortstop ever to go deep in the Fall Classic.
After Jean Segura’s one-out RBI single off Rafael Montero in the eighth, Ryan Pressly escaped a first-and-third jam by striking out Brandon Marsh and Schwarber on a nearly 100 mph one-hopper that was snagged over first base by Mancini.
Mancini, the backup first baseman, pinch hit in the top half after 2021 Gold Glove winner Yuli Gurriel got into a collision during a rundown, hurting his right knee. He played defense for the first time since the regular-season finale, falling into foul territory and reaching back with his left foot to touch the bag on Schwarber’s rip.
McCormick helped Pressly finish a five-out save. The center fielder ran 91 feet to made a leaping backhand catch against the chain-link fence in front of the right-center scoreboard on J.T. Realmuto for the second out of the ninth.
“I thought he hit it out,” McCormick said.
After Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch, Nick Castellanos bounced to shortstop, ending a 3-hour, 57-minute thriller.
Of previous Series tied 2-2, the Game 5 victor has won 31 of 47 times.
Philadelphia lost consecutive games for the first time this postseason. The Phillies adjusted plans following the Game 3 rainout and wore vintage powder blue uniforms in the Series for first time since 1983.