Rays, Astros face off in a winner-take-all Game 5

Getty Images

The final game of the Division Series is on tap for tonight and it shapes up to be a doozy. Let’s break it down.

The Game: Tampa Bay Rays @ Houston Astros
The Place: Minute Made Park, Houston, Texas
The Time: 7:07 PM Eastern
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: Tyler Glasnow vs. Gerrit Cole

As this series has progressed — and as the Rays have pulled even and stand poised to pull off the upset — its been increasingly cast as an historical upset in the making. And, sure, the Astros have been considered the favorites by just about everyone coming into the postseason.

But theres a difference between a team being a favorite and a matchup being a mismatch. The Astros may have been the best team in the game this season and the Rays may have been a Wild Card team, but there’s probably less of a difference between these two teams than one typically sees between a best team and a Wild Card qualifier. The Rays are good — they won 96 games — and they’ve shown in this series that they are not at all intimidated by this Astros club. If they win, sure, it’ll be an upset, but it won’t be a 1969 Mets situation.

Not that their task is an easy one. Indeed, it’s about as hard as it gets tonight given that they’ll be facing Gerrit Cole. The same Gerrit Cole who has only been the best pitcher in baseball for the past several months, having elevated his already great game to a whole new level since, oh, May. The Astros haven’t lost a Cole start since July 12, which was 14 starts ago. They haven’t lost a Cole start at home since May 22. He kicked it up a notch in Game 2 of the ALDS last weekend, tossing shutout ball into the eighth, allowing only four hits and one walk, and becoming the first pitcher to strike out 15 batters in a postseason game in nearly 20 years. Heck, he’s struck out nearly 14 batters per nine all season long. He is absolutely on top of his game and the Rays have their work cut out for them.

The Astros don’t have a simple task themselves. Tyler Glasnow didn’t have the best start in Game 1 of this series, running out of gas in the fifth inning as the Astros beat the Rays 6-2. But, as he showed earlier this season, he’s capable of dominating even the best offenses. If he falters the Rays have wave after wave of effective relief pitchers they can run out there. So far in this series they’ve been pretty effective. During the regular season, the Astros led the Majors with an .848 OPS and were third in runs scored, averaging 5.68 runs per game. In the ALDS, the Astros have a .685 OPS and have scored just over three runs a a game.

A betting man would have a hard time going against Cole given how well he’s pitched of late. But then again, a betting man probably had the Dodgers and Braves advancing in the NLDS too. None of us, apparently, knows anything. All we know is that tonight one of these two teams will advance and one of them will see its season end.

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

Getty Images

WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports