PHILADELPHIA — Justin Verlander overcame an early jolt to claim the World Series victory that has long eluded him, rookie Jeremy Peña hit a home run and the Houston Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Thursday night to head home home with a 3-2 shot.
Buoyed by late defensive gems in Trey Mancini and Chas McCormick, the Astros moved closer to their second championship — the other was a scandal-ridden title in 2017.
The Astros only took a four-pitch lead against Noah Syndergaard on Peña’s single. Then Phillies slugger Kyle Schwarber homered to the bottom half lead, recalling the five-run lead Verlander lost in the Astros’ first 6-5, 10 inning loss.
Peña had three hits, including an RBI single in the first and an eighth-inning single that set up Yordan Alvarez’s playing field. Peña made a bounding catch at shortstop to outsmart the Phillies in the third, then regained the lead an inning later with his fourth playoff homer. He is the first rookie shortstop to go far in the Fall Classic.
After Jean Segura’s RBI single against Rafael Montero in the eighth, Ryan Pressly escaped a first and third jam by taking out Brandon Marsh and Schwarber on a near-100mph speed jump that Mancini hung on to first base.
The backup first baseman was playing defense for the first time since Oct. 5. He had a pinch hit in the top half of the round after 2021 Golden Glove winner Yuli Gurriel collided during a count. Mancini fell into foul territory and reached out with his left foot to touch the bag on Schwarber’s tear.
McCormick helped Pressly complete a five-out save. The center fielder backhanded the chain-link fence to center right on JT Realmuto for the second on the ninth.
“I thought he was successful,” McCormick said.
After Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch, Nick Castellanos retired, ending a 3 hour and 57 minute thriller.
After a day off, Game 6 takes place Saturday night in Houston. From the previous series tied 2-2, the Game 5 winner has won 31 of 47 times.
Verlander is among five remaining Astros on the team caught using video to steal signs in 2017. He had been 0-6 with an unseemly 6.07 ERA in eight series starts dating back to his rookie season with the Tigers. from Detroit in 2006, a blemish in the 244-game winning career likely to win his third Cy Young Award this season.
Throwing with an extra day off, the 39-year-old right-hander allowed just one run and four hits in five innings with four walks and six strikeouts — including four in a row in the fourth and fifth. He lowered his ERA streak to 5.63.
The Phillies loaded the bases in the second on Segura’s single and pair of steps. Verlander escaped trouble when he hit Rhys Hoskins on a slider and then leveled off.
He pitched with unusual care, throwing exclusively fastballs on 17 pitches to Harper in three plate appearances.
After Harper doubled on the last of those with two outs in the fifth, Verlander and Castellanos faced off in an epic 10-pitch game. After trying two fastballs, two curveballs and his only change of the night, Verlander threw his fifth slider from the plate appearance and took Castellanos out on a left-court flyout, pumping a fist twice in the excitement.
It was Verlander’s 94th pitch. Dusty Baker, who was approaching his first title in a quarter century as a major league manager, went to his bullpen.
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The Astros’ pitchers struck out 12, bringing their two-game total to 26.
The Phillies lost consecutive games for the first time this playoffs. They adjusted their plans after the rain in Game 3 and wore vintage powder blue uniforms on the show for the first time since 1983.
Syndergaard made his first appearance in the Fall Classic since 2015 with the New York Mets and had been limited to three relief appearances since his previous departure on Oct. 1.
Jose Altuve threw his second shot high off the wall to right center and took third when center fielder Marsh fumbled the pick-up for an error. Phillies manager Rob Thomson made the unusual decision to move the infield for the game’s second batter, and Peña fielded a single to center.
Schwarber tied the score on Verlander’s second pitch, lighting a fastball and undoubtedly sending a right drive for his second homer in the series and fifth this postseason.
Harper walked with one out in the third, and Peña jumped up to catch Castellanos’ scorcher at 105 mph. Alec Bohm picked and Verlander retired Bryson Scott on a flyout.
Peña jumped on an overhanging curveball in the fourth for his fourth playoff homer on Syndergaard’s 44th and final pitch.