The Houston Astros are one game away from their second World Series championship in three years.
Gerrit Cole threw seven innings of one-run baseball and Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa and George Springer each went deep as the Astros earned a 7-1 win over the Washington Nationals in Game 5 to head back to Houston up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.
The Astros shelled Nationals starter Joe Ross for four runs in five innings of work, while Cole returned to his masterclass status after a disappointing Game 1 outing.
After shockingly taking the first two games of the series in Houston, the Nationals dropped three straight at home and will have to sweep Games 6 and 7 to win their first World Series. The Astros outscored the Nats 19-3 over the three games played in the nation's capital.
"They came to support us and really gave us everything they had all the way to the end, all 27 innings. Hats off to them. We apologize that we didn't give them more to celebrate," outfielder Adam Eaton told reporters. "It wasn't that we didn't try."
2019 World Series Schedule
Game 6 (Tuesday, Oct. 29): Washington Nationals at Houston Astros, 8:07 p.m. ET (Fox)
Game 7 (Wednesday, Oct. 30): Washington Nationals at Houston Astros, 8:08 p.m. ET (Fox)
The Nationals' uphill battle starts Tuesday night, with Stephen Strasburg taking the mound against Justin Verlander.
Strasburg has been lights out all postseason, posting a quality start in each of his four starts and also throwing three innings of relief in Washington's Wild Card Game win over the Milwaukee Brewers. The flamethrower currently has a 1.34 ERA in 47 playoff innings pitched.
"He has elite stuff," Springer told reporters of Strasburg. "The way he can command all three, four of his pitches, it's not fun to face. It's not easy."
Verlander, meanwhile, has not had nearly the same level of October success. He's posted a disappointing 1-3 record with a 4.15 ERA in five playoff starts, giving up four runs in three of his last four outings. Those numbers are almost exact replicas of his 2018 postseason, so we've reached something closer to a trend than a short-term aberration.
Over the 30-game sample of Verlander's playoff career, he's posted a 14-10 record with a 3.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP—numbers that are right in line with his regular-season totals. It's fair to say there has to be some mean regression eventually.
Even if the Nationals get through Game 6, they'll be a significant underdog in a potential Game 7. The Astros would hand the ball to Zack Greinke and likely have Cole available for relief innings. The Nationals would either go with Patrick Corbin or Max Scherzer, who missed his scheduled Game 5 start due to neck spasms.
This is a series where everything went right for Washington the first two games before the dominant Astros returned to form on the road. Whether it's in six or seven games, it's hard to envision any scenario where the World Series isn't headed back to Houston.
Prediction: Astros in seven.