Justin Verlander beamed like a first-time big leaguer, and the Houston Astros feted the 244-game winner like a baby-faced rookie. "They put me in the cart and rolled me in the shower and just doused me with all sorts of stuff," the pitcher said. "And it was one of the best feelings in my career." After 16 years of trying, Verlander finally gritted out his elusive first World Series win. Expected to win his third Cy Young Award this month, Verlander overcame an early jolt and rookie Jeremy Peña hit a go-ahead homer and drove in two runs as the Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Thursday night to head home with a 3-2 Series lead, the AP reports. "I can say I got one," Verlander proudly proclaimed.
Buoyed by defensive gems from Trey Mancini in the eighth inning and Chas McCormick in the ninth, the Astros moved to the brink of their second championship—the other was a scandal-tainted title in 2017. They can close out the Phillies on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park. "There’s going to be a lot of energy in our park," said Houston's 73-year-old Dusty Baker, one win from his first title in 25 seasons as a major league manager. Philadelphia, wearing vintage powder blue uniforms in the Series for the first time since 1983, lost consecutive games for the first time this postseason. Of previous Fall Classics tied 2-2, the Game 5 victor has won 31 of 47 times. Three years ago, the Astros lost Games 6 and 7 at home to Washington.
"I think it matters that we’ve already won there this series,” the Phillies' Rhys Hoskins said. "Should give us a little more confidence." Verlander is among just five Astros remaining from the team caught using video to steal signs in '17. He had been 0-6 with an unseemly 6.07 ERA in eight Series starts dating to his rookie season with Detroit in 2006, a blotch in a likely Hall of Fame career. Pitching with an extra day of rest for his arm and stubble on his face, the 39-year-old right-hander gave up just one run and four hits over five innings with four walks and six strikeouts. He lowered that Series ERA to 5.63, a celebratory cap on a season in which he returned from Tommy John surgery and re-emerged as the AL's best starter.
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