WASHINGTON, D.C. — A few hours before first pitch, the Washington Nationals announced that their ace, Max Scherzer, had been scratched from his Game 5 start with “neck and trap spasms.” Instead, they would be throwing former 1st round pick, Joe Ross, against Cy Young hopeful Gerrit Cole. Ross, received a text this morning from Scherzer saying “get ready, there is not way I can go” and he found out officially from Davey Martinez at 3:30pm. Ross pitched 2 very effective innings late in Game 3, but those are his only innings since September 29 and his 5.48 ERA was the 5th highest ever for World Series starter.
Ross garnered a loud cheer from the raucous Nationals Park crowd by getting strike 1 on George Springer. After Springer worked the 63rd full count of the series, he ultimately drew a leadoff walk, When Ross’ 3-2 offering was called just a bit outside, the Nats’ faithful let home plate umpire Lance Barksdale know their displeasure with a shower of boos. Up stepped the hardest out on the Astros this series, Jose Altuve, but Ross quickly induced a 6-4-3 double play and just like that there were 2-outs. Michael Brantley ended the 1st inning by grounding out to 2nd base and Joe Ross had made it through the opening inning of Game 5 unscathed.
Trea Turner led off the Nationals half of the 1st by working the 64th full count of the series before striking out. Adam Eaton put a charge into a 1-2 offering from Cole but Springer was able track it down at the warning track in dead centerfield. Anthony Rendon also flew out to centerfield and the Nationals were unable to get anything going early against Cole and Game 5 marked the first time all series that neither team had recorded a hit in the 1st inning.
Yuli Gurriel got the first hit of the game with 1-out in the 2nd when Joe Ross tipped a chopper and Turner couldn’t corral the ricochet that barely made the dirt. The second hit of the game followed right after when Yordan Alvarez hit a laser beam 2-run home run to centerfield and it was suddenly 2-0 Astros. Alvarez is 23 and his homer, along with Soto’s Game 1 homer, marked the first World Series where both team had gotten homers from players 23 years old and younger. Ross bounced back with a strikeout of Carlos Correa and a groundout from Martin Maldonado to limit the damage.
Juan Soto led off the 2nd inning with a base hit to left field, his first hit since turning 21 on Friday and his first hit at home this series. Howie Kendrick followed with a single of his own and Soto went 1st to 3rd and the Nats were in business with the go ahead run at the plate in the person of Ryan Zimmerman, the franchise leader in RBIs. Zim went down swinging when he couldn’t help waving at a basty Cole knuckle curve. Cole then induced a 6-4-3 double play of his own off the bat of Victor Robles and the Nationals’ threat, that started out 1st and 3rd, no outs, was over 7 pitches later with zero to show for it.
Ross got through the 3rd inning, ceding only a 2-out broken bat single to Altuve. He had made it through the first three innings on only 40 pitches with his only blemish being the homer to Alvarez. Cole matched it with an easy 3rd inning of his own and he was also through three innings but only 42 pitches.
Ross started the 4th effectively including induced a groundout from Gurriel to Kendrick that showed Ross had learned his lesson from Gurriel’s first at bat. This time around Ross let the chopper go past him for Kendrick to field it cleanly for the out. Alvarez singled and Ross nearly escaped the 4th when Carlos Correa came within centimeters of swinging at his 0-2 delivery that was so close to the black it could’ve been a called strike 3 as well. Instead the at bat continued and four pitches later Correa hit his 3rd home run of the postseason and the Astros’ 2nd 2-run homer off Ross to make it 4-0 in the 4th. Ross got Maldonado to one out to Rendon but once again them damage was done. The Astros’ bats had given their ace, Cole, a 4-0 lead, and is Cole is 40-0 when his team gives him at least 4 runs of support.
Adam Eaton was called out looking leading off the 4th on a pitch that, if it was a strike, the the 0-2 pitch to Correa should’ve been a strike too, and Eaton let Barksdale know it. Rendon drew a walk before Soto hit a hard line drive that went right to Springer in centerfield. Zimmerman grounded into fielders choice to end the 4th and Cole was rolling. The Nationals hadn’t had a runner reach 2nd base since the 2nd inning and were letting Cole get the best of them, as had so many teams before them this season.
Ross retired Cole in the 5th before walking Springer for the 2nd time. Altuve came up again but this time Ross was able to get a 4-6-3 double play and get out of the 5th inning on just 12 pitches keeping his pitch count at just 78. Outside of the two homers, Ross had matched Cole pitch for pitch, but once again the Nationals offense was failing to provide any real support to their pitching staff in the front of the home crowd.
That lack of offensive support kept up in the home half of the 5th as the Nationals went down in order, with Him fouling out, Robles striking out and Gomes flying out. Cole was through five innings on just 69 pitches. He wasn’t overpowering the Nationals with them registering some hard 100+ mph contact from Soto and Kendrick that found gloves for outs, but through his five innings of work he had only allowed 2 hits and 3 total baserunners.
Despite having only thrown 78 pitches, Ross’ night was done after five innings and Tanner Rainey came in to start the 6th inning. He was much more effective Sunday night than he had been Saturday night when he couldn’t seem to find the strike zone. He was throwing strikes this time around but Brantley and Bregman both made loud outs to Soto in deep left field before Gurriel popped out to Kendrick for a 1-2-3 inning. That is how Rainey operates, when he is on, he is on, but like Martinez said of his reliever Saturday night, “when he starts throwing balls, usually he can’t come out of it.” The Nats’ righty was the former tonight in his 9-pitch appearance.
Gerardo “Baby Shark” Parra pinch hit for Rainey to start the 6th and struck out swinging. Turner hit a hard ground ball to first that Gurriel snagged and then was able to beat the speedy shortstop to 1st base for the 2nd out of the inning. Eaton went down with the bat on his shoulder on yet another full count, his 2nd strikeout of the game and Cole’s 7th. Cole was now through six innings in Game 5 on just 84 pitches and had allowed only 2 hits (3 total baserunners) and both of those hits had come back to back leading off the 2nd inning. In a word, Cole was DEALING.
Martinez brought in his lefty Sean Doolittle to start the 7th and face Yordan Alvarez, who was already 2 for 2 and he promptly made that 3 for 3 with a single to right field. Jake Marisnick pinch ran for Alvarez to enter the game as a late inning defensive replacement and was erased when on Correa 5-4-3 double play on Doolittle’s very next pitch. Maldonado drew a base on balls of the Nats’ southpaw before Cole struck out on some high 95mph heat to end the 7th. Rainey and Doolittle had kept it 4-0 with their two innings in relief of Ross, but the Nationals had to get something going fast with only 9 outs to work with.
Rendon hit a high fly ball to left field that Brantley was able to camp under. Juan Soto then took a 2-0 98mph fastball and deposited it 383 feet away just beyond the glove of Marisnick in centerfield for a solo homer. It was his 2nd home run off Cole this series and the Nationals’ first hit since the 2nd inning. The Nationals were finally on the board and the Astros’ lead had been cut to 4-1. Cole regrouped to strike out Kendrick but Zimmerman worked a walk on a pitch that Maldonado and Cole thought was strike 3. Both started to walk off the field before realizing it was ball 4 and Cole said “whatever” in disgust. Cole was now at 104 pitches and AJ Hinch made a mound visit to his ace but Cole would stay in the game.
Robles worked yet another full count from Cole who was starting to overthrow. On Cole’s 110th pitch of the night, Robles was called out looking on a pitch that was more of a ball than the pitch Zimmerman walked on and Barksdale drew the ire of both Robles, who angrily jumping and spinning around as he had started towards 1st base, as well as the 43,000+ Nats fan in the sold-out crowd. The Nats’ first real threat had been squashed and they sat 6 outs away from a 3-2 series deficit.
Daniel Hudson came out for the 8th and the Nats’ fans were still letting Lance Barksdale hear it with chants of “ump you suck, ump you suck.” The Astros rode the momentum of the controversial strikeout as Springer doubled leading off the inning and advanced to 3rd on Altuve’s groundout. Brantley worked a walk from Hudson before Bregman popped out to shallow right field, unable to plate Springer. Gurriel singled past a diving Turner to drive home Springer and put the Astros back up by 4, 5-1. It was the first run of the game to not come on a home run. Marisnick struck out to end the 8th but the Nats were back down by 4 and still had only 6 outs to work with.
Gomes singled off Joe Smith in the 8th as Cole’s night was over after 100 pitches and 7 innings. Asdrubal Cabrera pinch hit for Hudson and struck out. Trea Turner hit a line drive to Springer in right field who lost it in the crowd/lights momentarily given the crowd hope but recovered to record the 2nd out. Adam Eaton popped out to Gurriel in foul territory in front of the Nationals’ dugout to end the 8th and the Nationals were just 3 outs away from long all three home games this series.
Hudson came back out for a 2nd inning of work in the 9th and got two outs before Springer took him deep to left field for a no doubt 2-run home run. It was Springer’s 15th career postseason home run and it made it 7-1 Astros. Wander Suero came in to retire Altuve for the final out of the 9th, but it seemed like it was all over but the crying in the final World Series game of the year in Washington.
Ryan Pressly sent the Nationals down in order in the 9th and their 2-0 series lead had officially become a 3-2 series deficit. The road team had won the first 5 games for only the 3rd time (1906, 1996) in World Series history. In 1906, the White Sox and Cubs alternated home games unlike modern day so essentially 1996 was the only other time the road team had won the first 5 games in this manner. Unfortunately for the Nationals, that means no team has ever won the World Series by winning only road games, but there is a first time for everything. If the Nationals hope to make history, rather than becoming it, they will need to reset, continue the mantra of “go 1-0 today” and find the spark that propelled them to the World Series and their squandered 2-0 lead.
First pitch Tuesday in Houston is set for 8:07 pm.