PHILADELPHIA – The World Series is the Astros’ to lose.
It’s a thin margin that easily could be tilting in the other direction, but Thursday night manager Dusty Baker’s crew squeezed out enough offense and utilized a bullpen that has been nothing short of dominant, in a 3-2 victory over the Phillies in Game 5 of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park.
The Astros, returning home with a 3-2 series lead, have two cracks if needed beginning Saturday at securing the franchise’s second world championship in six seasons.
Thursday’s game got settled in the late innings, with Astros closer Ryan Pressly entering in the eighth to protect a one-run lead with runners on the corners. Pressly struck out Brandon Marsh and retired Kyle Schwarber before working a scoreless ninth. The Astros’ bullpen has pitched to a 1.47 ERA in this series.
After flushing a five-run lead in the Astros’ Game 1 loss, Justin Verlander tiptoed around trouble on this night and departed after five innings with his team ahead 2-1. The right-hander allowed four hits and four walks over that stretch, throwing 94 pitches.
Noah Syndergaard, in his first World Series start since Game 3 in 2015 with the Mets, lasted three innings and allowed two earned runs on three hits and four walks with four strikeouts. The right-hander was placed into the rotation to give Zack Wheeler extra rest. Wheeler, the Phillies ace, will start Saturday in Game 6 against lefty Framber Valdez.
Jose Altuve smacked Syndergaard’s second pitch of the game for a double off the fence in right-center and reached third after Marsh misplayed the ball for an error. Jeremy Pena’s ensuing single delivered the run.
Pena was thrown out by J.T. Realmuto attempting to steal second and Syndergaard retired the next eight batters. In the fourth, Pena led off with a towering fly that cleared the left-field fence to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. The homer was Pena’s fourth in this postseason. Phillies manager Rob Thomson at that point removed Syndergaard and inserted right-hander Connor Brogdon.
Schwarber homered on Verlander’s second pitch of the game to tie it 1-1. The line drive into the right-field seats on a 94-mph fastball was Schwarber’s fifth this postseason and second in this series.
Verlander loaded the bases with two outs in the second, walking Marsh and Schwarber in succession after Segura’s single, but escaped by striking out Rhys Hoskins. In the third, Bryce Harper and Alec Bohm were left stranded as Bryson Stott was retired to end the inning.
Harper’s double in the fifth put the tying run in scoring position and Verlander ran the count full to Nick Castellanos before retiring the Phillies outfielder on a fly out.
The Astros had a chance to extend their lead in the seventh after Yuli Gurriel’s leadoff bloop double and advancement to third on Seranthony Dominguez’s wild pitch. But with the infield in, David Hensley was retired on a grounder before Chas McCormick hit a bouncer to third and Gurriel got tagged out in a rundown. Dominguez escaped the inning by retiring Martin Maldonado.
Altuve’s walk leading off the eighth and Pena’s ensuing single led to the Astros scoring a needed insurance run on Yordan Alvarez’s RBI groundout. Hoskins was ready to throw home on the play, but the ball escaped his glove.
In the bottom of the inning the Phillies closed within 3-2 on Jean Segura’s RBI single against Rafael Montero after the right-hander had walked two batters in the inning. Pressly was summoned and avoided further trouble.
The Phillies finished with six hits a night after Cristian Javier and three relievers combined for the Astros on the second no-hitter in World Series history.