After 16 years of trying, Justin Verlander finally got his first World Series victory on Thursday night, as the Astros defeated the Phillies 3-2 in Philadelphia.
“It was a heck of a grind,” Verlander told MLB.com.
“You got to give them credit,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson told MLB.com. “We just didn’t get many hits with runners in scoring position, and we had a lot of opportunities.”
Houston rookie Jeremy Peña had three hits: an RBI single through a drawn-in infield in the first after Jose Altuve’s leadoff double, a homer on a hanging curveball in the fourth for a 2-1 lead (his fourth longball of the season), and an eighth-inning base hit that set up Yordan Alvarez’s run-scoring groundout.
Peña’s go-ahead homer, driving in two runs, was key to Houston’s victory over the Phillies that gave them a 3-2 Series lead. Verlander, expected to win his third Cy Young Award this month, overcame a shaky start.
Jean Segura’s single and a pair of walks loaded the bases in the second for the Phillies, but Verlander wiggled out of trouble after a visit from pitching coach Bill Murphy, striking out Rhys Hoskins on a slider. Philadelphia lost consecutive games for the first time this postseason for the first time since 1983.
The Astros are on the verge of their second championship, thanks to defensive plays from Trey Mancini in the eighth inning and Chay McCormick in the ninth. The other title was scandal-filled in 2017.
Verlander is one of only five Astros players caught stealing signs in 2017 using video. At the time, he was 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight Series starts dating back to his rookie season with Detroit in 2006, a blemish on an otherwise likely Hall of Fame career.
Pitching with an extra day of rest, the 39-year-old right-hander allowed just four hits and one run over five innings, walking four and striking out six. He lowered his Series ERA to 5.63, capping off a season in which he bounced back from Tommy John surgery to emerge as the AL’s best starter.
On Peña’s run-scoring single in the first against Noah Syndergaard, Houston took the lead after only four pitches. Then, leading off the bottom half, Kyle Schwarber hit his fifth postseason homer, echoing the five-run lead Verlander blew in Houston’s opening 6-5, 10-inning loss.
“Kind of went back to the drawing board a little bit between starts and got back to work after Game 1,” Verlander told MLB.com. “Honestly the extra rest helped me.”
Game 6 of the World Series moves back to Houston on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.