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World Series: Houston Astros take 3-2 lead over Washington Nationals behind Gerrit Cole’s fantastic start

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The Houston Astros revived their dominance as Gerrit Cole buried the Washington Nationals in a 7-1 Game 5 win.

The World Series had not been played in Washington, D.C., in 85 years. That streak ended when the Nationals captured the National League pennant in a commanding sweep over the St. Louis Cardinals. However, they could not secure a home win in the three chances they had.

Houston faced immense pressure after dropping the first two games to begin the World Series. Both of their aces took losses from a Washington team that pounded 17 runs in Houston. However, that same Washington team would score just three runs over the next trio of contests.

Pitching on normal rest, Gerrit Cole looked to take the series lead back to Houston. On the other hand, Joe Ross was making his first career postseason start in wake of Max Scherzer being scratched due to neck and back spasms. 

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Scherzer’s injury was a dagger to the Nationals. However, they were confident in the 26-year-old Ross to start in his place. After all, he had pitched against this Astros lineup just two days prior in Game 3. He went two innings and allowed just one hit. 

He would not find such luck in Game 5.

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Ross threw 14 pitches in the first inning to get welcomed to the feeling of starting in a prestigious World Series game. Cole matched him with a 1-2-3 bottom half.

Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel reached base on a single in the second. A wild pitch allowed Gurriel to advance to second base, but he would not stay there long. Left fielder Yordan Alvarez took Ross deep to left-center field to put the Astros ahead 2-0. It was a big moment for Alvarez, who had a disappointing American League Championship Series. 

In the top of the fourth, Alvarez would hit a single on a full count, adding to his impressive night. Shortstop Carlos Correa followed that with his own two-run shot, a no-doubter over the left field wall. The Astros’ lead was now 4-0 after four innings. 

Meanwhile, Gerrit Cole was nothing short of impressive on the mound. Through six innings, he only allowed three Nationals baserunners. He had struck out seven (and ended with nine total), suffocating a Nationals offense that had been left in Houston.

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The Nats fought to strike something together in Cole’s final inning of work. Left fielder Juan Soto sent a pitch high to left center, falling through the air and getting closer and closer to the warning track and the wall. The ball would land just over the wall and beyond an outstretched Jake Marisnick. The Nats were on the board, 4-1.

Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman battled Cole and earned a full-count walk, prompting Astros manager A.J. Hinch to come out of the dugout. It would only be for a mound visit from the manager. 

Center fielder Victor Robles worked a full count following the mound visit, but Cole dialed it up and got Robles to strike out looking, and end what would be the Nationals’ final rally.

Right-hander Daniel Hudson would come in to pitch the top of the eighth. George Springer immediately jumped on him with a double. He advanced to third when second baseman Jose Altuve grounded out, which was followed by an intentional walk to right fielder Michael Brantley. Yuli Gurriel would lace an RBI single past the diving shortstop Trea Turner, extending the Astros’ lead to 5-1.

Daniel Hudson stayed in the ballgame, continuing to pitch in the top of the ninth. His night would end after George Springer buried the Nationals for good, providing a two-run home run to add to the Astros run column, thus making it a 7-1 game.

Juan Soto would strike out for the second out in the bottom of the ninth on a check swing. Astros righty Ryan Pressly got second baseman Howie Kendrick to ground out to close out the game and the Nationals’ slate of home games for 2019.

The Nationals’ frustrations were felt throughout the game. Scoring three runs over 27 innings is a problem, especially when your lineup consists of stars and MVP candidates, such as Trea Turner, Howie Kendrick, Juan Soto, and Anthony Rendon. These guys can score runs; they have proven it before.

The Nationals have seen what things they have been doing wrong over the course of the last three games that outweigh frustrations with the strike zone or umpires’ calls or lack of performance. They are sure to address that on the off-day Monday.

They know what they will be up against. The Astros are throwing Justin Verlander, who started Game 2 and gave up four runs en route to his loss. 

Houston is confident though, as they should be. They just won three games on the road with the pressure against them and their backs against the wall. The Astros outscored the Nationals 19-3 over the three previous games, and out-hit them, too, 34-17.

The road team has prevailed in all five of the games in the 2019 Fall Classic, a rare feat in itself. It will remain to be seen if that trend continues on Tuesday night for Game 6, when the World Series heads back to where it began in Houston. The Astros have announced Verlander as their starter, while the Washington Nationals will hand the ball to Stephen Strasburg in what could be their final game of the 2019 season, and potentially Strasburg’s last as a member of the Washington Nationals.

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