Mandatory Credit: Photo by JASON SZENES/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13607570ag) Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander throws against the Philadelphia Phillies in the bottom of the first inning of game five of the World Series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, 03 November 2022. MLB Houston Astros at Philadelphia Phillies, USA – 03 Nov 2022
Man looks in the abyss, there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character. And that is what keeps him out of the abyss.
-Hal Holbrook, Wall Street
One more win. The Astros are that close to a second World Series in five years, and their ace – Justin Verlander – helped them get there. He battled, but never fell into the abyss.
Of course, Verlander knew the narrative going in.
For all his accomplishments, Verlander has been a failure in the World Series. The future Hall of Famer is about to win his third Cy Young. He has been one of the best pitchers of his generation. However, World Series success has eluded him. Going into Thursday night’s pivotal Game 5, he held an 0-6 record with an ERA of 6.07 in the WS, including a horrid effort in Game 1 against the Phillies.
He did not have his best stuff again in Game 5.
It did not matter. Verlander recovered from some early struggles and pitched five solid innings, allowing only one run as the Astros won 3-2 to take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series. They return home with a chance to clinch in Game 6 on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park with Framber Valdez on the mound.
Verlander did his job and turned it over to the bullpen, who carried the day – as it has all year – and the Astros are on the verge of a magical conclusion to the season.
It helped that the Astros got off to a good start. Jose Altuve doubled to open the game, advancing to third on a poorly played ball. Jeremy Pena mashed a single against a surprisingly drawn in infield to put the Astros up 1-0. The Phillies quelled the rally with a strikeout of Yordan Alvarez and a caught stealing on Pena for a double play. Alex Bregman struck out on three pitches, but the Astros had a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, there was the old World Series Verlander in the bottom of the first, giving up a lead-off bomb to Kyle Schwarber to tie up the game. Verlander got out of the inning, but it was a rough start. He would struggle after, but not allow another run.
He again had issues in the second, loading the bases. But he escaped when he struck out Rhys Hoskins to keep the game tied.
The third was just as shaky, as he allowed two base runners, but he got out with no damage. After three innings, he stranded six runners but only allowed the one run.
He scrambled through the fifth, stranding Bryce Harper on second. That would be the end of his night. But it would be good enough.
Verlander got just enough help from Pena, the clutch rookie. Pena homered in the fourth to give the Astros a 2-1 lead. They would never let it go. In the top of the eighth, the Astros got a run off an Alvarez groundout to make it 3-1.
After Verlander, it was up to the bullpen. Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu got them out of the sixth, still up 2-1. Abreu started the seventh and dominated the Phillies to push the game to the eighth, when the Astros added the insurance run. They would need it.
Then it was up to Rafael Montero, who let the Phils back in the game, allowing a run to make it 3-2. But Ryan Pressly killed the threat in the inning, then closed out the ninth thanks to an amazing catch by Chas McCormick for the second out. He walked Bryce Harper, but then got Nick Castellanos to end the game.
So after all that, Verlander got his first-ever World Series win. And the Astros closed in on another title.
One more win and they are there.