The road team was victorious once again. The Houston Astros cruised to a 7-1 victory over the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night.
Washington suffered its first blow hours before the game started when Max Scherzer was scratched with neck spasms. Down its ace, the Nationals immediately found themselves further disadvantaged against Houston’s All-Star pitcher Gerrit Cole.
The Astros tapped into their immense power supply with a pair of two-run home runs early in Game 5. On a night when Cole rediscovered his best stuff, four runs was all he needed.
Here are the winners and losers from Houston’s Game 5 win over Washington in the World Series.
Winner: Gerrit Cole, pitcher, Houston Astros
The Astros came to Washington D.C. determined to force a Game 5 so that Cole could get back on the mound. The All-Star pitcher left his rough Game 1 outing in the past and made his case as baseball’s best pitcher.
When the Nationals put two on with no outs in the second, Cole silenced the crowd with a strikeout and double play. He locked in after that and mowed down Washington’s lineup as Houston’s lead grew. In what might have been his last start with the Astros, Cole put them one step closer to a championship.
Loser: Joe Ross, pitcher, Washington Nationals
Ross tried to make the best he could have in an enormously difficult circumstance. Scherzer’s late scratch meant the Nationals needed Ross to eat a lot of innings in a pivotal World Series game. It didn’t work out for either of them.
The 26-year-old shined in the first inning with Nationals Park louder than it had ever been. Ross made a great pitch to Yordan Álvarez in the second inning and Houston’s slugger still crushed it. The pitcher who hadn’t thrown two-plus innings since Sept. 29 unsurprisingly ran into more issues as the game went on.
Winner: Carlos Correa, shortstop, Houston Astros
A night after one of Houston’s star infielders busted out of his slump, another followed suit in Game 5. Correa walked into the batter’s box in a 6-for-49 cold stretch since Game 3 of the ALDS. He then tore into a slider to give Houston a four-run lead.
The recent postseason struggles were uncharacteristic for Correa. He routinely crushed baseballs in the postseason and his blast in Game 5 added to that dominance. According to MLB Stats, Correa now has the most home runs (11), RBI (32) and extra-base hits (21) in the playoffs by a player before their 26th birthday. Houston’s lineup and pitching are finally clicking at the perfect time.
Loser: Lance Barksdale, home plate umpire
The World Series is meant to be a showcase of the game’s best players competing in the spotlight for a championship. Barksdale managed to take over the game and frustrate everyone playing and watching Game 5 with an absurd strike zone.
Barksdale’s wild zone, including the unthinkable called third strike against Victor Robles in a close game, had a significant impact on Game 5. At a time when umpires are fighting harder and harder against MLB adopting an electronic strike zone, Barksdale’s calls showed everyone why it might be time for a change.
Winner: Yordan Álvarez, outfielder, Houston Astros
Houston’s skipper A.J. Hinch took a bit of a gamble by sticking Álvarez in his lineup. The rookie entered in a massive skid at the plate and is a known liability defensively in the outfield. Fortunately for Houston, the rookie came through for his team.
Álvarez’s two-run blast in the second inning gave Houston the early spark it needed. It gave Cole some extra confidence and with good reason given his team’s 80-21 record when it scores first. He finished 3-for-3 and will now slide back in as the designated hitter with the series returning to Houston.
Loser: Trea Turner, shortstop, Washington Nationals
The leadoff hitter is arguably the second-most important player in a lineup and it’s especially true when they have Turner’s speed. Unfortunately for the Nationals, Turner is quickly becoming a huge problem atop their lineup.
The 26-year-old can be a special player, especially when he gets on base. Turner’s speed changes the game, creates runs and frustrates opposing pitchers. As the saying goes, though, you can’t steal first base. Turner went 0-for-4 on Sunday and his at-bats never looked particularly impressive. Washington’s season is on the line in Game 6 and it needs far more from its leadoff hitter than his .136 batting average.