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Astros 3, Phillies 2 (World Series Game 5): Houston heads back home with a win to go

Philadelphia’s late rallies just couldn’t quite get it done against relentless relief pitching

MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Philadelphia Phillies
J.T. Realmuto was robbed of extra bases in Game 5’s ninth inning.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it was simply the ex-Cub factor, but I have to admit, I kind of rolled my eyes a little at Kyle Schwarber’s internet-sound-bite friendly response to being on the receiving end of just the third no-hitter in postseason history, and second in the World Series:

I’m not sure what I expected him to say — it’s how they’re wired — but it did give off some, for lack of a better term, “please dont put in the newspaper that i got mad” energy.

Then José Altuve led off the game with a double. Then Jeremy Peña hit a single and drove him home, and it was 1-0 Astros.

Then Peña got caught stealing on a strikeout-throwout to help Noah Syndergaard settle down and escape the first.

Then Schwarber led off the game against Justin Verlander and did this:

Apparently, far be it from me to judge Schwarber, whose ability to flatten his bat path (as opposed to the massive uppercut of, say, Cody Bellinger) makes him particularly dangerous against the high fastballs that modern pitchers thrive on. I have to assume that Justin Verlander is aware of this and simply threw a stinky pitch, but in any case, the increasing noise about Verlander’s history of World Series stinkers meant the momentum was back in the hands of the home side.

For the moment, at least. Verlander didn’t have anything close to his A-stuff today — the last time he walked four hitters in a game was June 2019 — but he did resemble his typical self in terms of hunkering down when it mattered most, giving us the late-game and big-AB velo spikes he’s famous for and grinding out five full innings without another run on his line.

The score remained tied into the fourth inning, when Syndergaard was once again unable to retire Peña. Unfortunately for he and the Phillies, instead of a line drive single, Peña sent a line drive into the blank field seats to give the Astros a 2-1 lead.

That score held serve into the eighth, when Altuve and Peña again reached base, the former advancing and later scoring on a Yordan Alvarez ground out.

There were other scoring chances. Alec Bohm led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single against former Phillies closer Héctor Neris, then moved into scoring position with two outs when Bryan Abreu entered the game and plunked Brandon Marsh with the first pitch he threw. That brought Schwarber back to the plate with two outs and the go-ahead run on base, but he was unable to duplicate his first inning magic, smoking a grounder straight into the shift for the third out.

Yuli Gurriel led off the subsequent half-inning with a sinking liner to center field stretched into a double by a diving Brandon Marsh, but was later caught between third and home on a one-out Chas McCormick grounder.

The Phillies picked the perfect time to finally show some life, motivated largely by Rafael Montero’s lack of control. Montero, who worked the second-to-last leg of the Houston staff’s combined no-hitter last night, just couldn’t put the ball where he wanted it, walking Nick Castellanos and Bryson Stott and leaving the game with the lead cut to one after a Jean Segura single to right field.

Houston called upon Ryan Pressly for the fourth time in this series, and for the fourth time this series — and ninth time this postseason — he delivered, striking out Brandon Marsh and getting Schwarber to put the ball on the ground, even if it required a brilliant stop from Trey Mancini to get the out and the inning.

The Phillies did enough to make things interesting in the ninth, but the Astros had an answer at every turn. The disappointment in the park was visible on J.T. Realmuto’s face when a leaping grab by McCormick in right-center field robbed him of an extra base hit on a smoked, 102-mph fly ball. Bryce Harper worked a hit-by-pitch to put the tying run on, leaving the game in the hands of Nick Castellanos, who ran the count full before grounding out to Peña at shortstop to end the game.

Game 6 is scheduled for Saturday at 7:03 p.m. CT, broadcast on Fox. Zack Wheeler pitches for the Phillies with their season on the line, and the Astros try to secure their second championship by handing Framber Valdez the pill.