The Houston Astros other ace, Gerrit Cole, allowed two hits and one run through eight innings during a masterful performance to defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 in Game 5 of the 2019 ALDS. The Astros eliminated the Rays from the best-of-five series, and advanced to their third-straight American League Championship Series (ALCS).

Houston Astros Gerrit Cole ALDS Tampa
Manager AJ Hinch hugs winning pitcher Gerrit Cole after the Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2019 ALDS. (Image: Bob Levy/Getty)

The Houston Astros will host the New York Yankees this weekend for the first two games of the best-of-seven ALCS.

When the Tampa Bay Rays were stymied by Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in the first two games of the ALDS, it was a complete afterthought that the Astros were moving on to the ALCS to take on the Yankees. But the 0-2 Rays had a lot of fight still left in them. The Rays won two straight games, and knocked around Verlander, who was pitching on short rest, in Game 4. The Rays evened the series and forced a fifth and final game.

However, by the time the Rays flew back to Houston for the elimination game, they were gassed. It didn’t help that they had a fire-breathing dragon waiting for them. To paraphrase Bob Uecker, the Astros didn’t feed Cole since his last start, so he’d be extra mean and surly.

The Astros gift-wrapped Cole a 4-0 lead to start the do-or-die Game 5.

“Once you get Cole on a roll, it’s pretty much all over,” said teammate Josh Reddick.

An unhittable Cole made one bad pitch all night (out of 107 total pitches). He dominated the Rays over eight innings en route to the 6-1 victory.

Gifting Cole a Four-Spot

Houston ambushed Tampa starter Tyler Glasnow from the opening pitch in the ALDS. The Astros led off the game with four consecutive hits in the first inning. Before he could even catch his breath, the Astros tagged Glasnow for four runs and surged to a 4-0 lead.

After watching the tape, Glasnow realized he tipped his pitches.

“It was pretty obvious,” said Glasnow. “I also left some pretty good pitches in the middle of the plate. They are really good hitters.”

In the top of the second inning, the Rays got one run back. The solo home run from Eric Sogard would end up the Rays only offense of the night. In their three ALDS losses, the Rays scored only four total runs.

Glasnow lasted only 2.2 innings before Blake Snell made another relief appearance. Tampa emptied the bullpen in an attempt to prevent the Astros from pulling away. The bullpen did its job in the middle innings and put up zeros, but the offense couldn’t get any wood on Cole, who struck out 10 and scattered a mere two hits.

With 10 strikeouts in Game 5, Cole extended his record with 11 consecutive games with at least 10 or more Ks. In his last two postseason starts, Cole allowed one run in 15.2 innings, and struck out 25 batters. Cole led the majors with 326 strikeouts, and he became the 18th pitcher in modern history to whiff 300 batters in a season.

Insurance and Advance

Any hopes of a comeback were shut down when the Astros added insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th inning. Brantley and Altuve hit back-to-back solo home runs to put the Astros ahead 6-1, and for good.

The Rays went quick in the top of the ninth. Roberto Osuna pitched a perfect 1-2-3 ninth inning to lock up the victory. Gerrit Cole recorded his second win of the postseason, both in the ALDS, and the Astros advanced to the ALCS.

“It was a dogfight for five games. They really challenged us,” said Cole. “We finished it off with unbelievable defense and some really clutch hitting. We were tested and responded well.”

You should give Tampa Bay and the manager Kevin Cash a ton of credit. The scrappy Rays pushed the best team in baseball to the maximum number of games in the best-of-five ALDS.

The Rays went a long way without high-priced free agents or a dominant starting rotation. Heck, their own fans didn’t both to show up to games until the Rays punched their ticket to the postseason. Even then, the Rays had to fly across country to knock the snot out of the Oakland A’s in the AL wild card. The Rays got the job done, but no one gave them a chance in the ALDS.

On Deck: Here Come Those Damn Yankees

The Astros advanced to their third consecutive ALCS. They lost to the Boston Red Sox last October, and defeated the Yankees in the 2017 ALCS.

The Yankees swept the Twins in their ALDS series, and enjoyed several days off while waiting for the Houston/Tampa series to conclude. The Bronx Bombers take the show on the road and play Game 1 on Saturday in Houston. Zack Greinke is expected to start for Astros against Yankees lefty, James Paxton. On Sunday, Justin Verlander will pitch Game 2 against Masahiro Tanaka. Gerrit Cole will not pitch until ALCS Game 3.

“Great team, ” Cole said about the Yankees. “Boatload of talent and they had a few days off, so they’re gonna be fresh.”

According to William Hill, the Astros went from 3/2 odds to 1/1 odds (even money) to win the World Series. The New York Yankees are 3/1 odds to win the World Series. The St. Louis Cardinals and the Washington Nationals face each other in the NLCS starting on Friday. Both National League teams are currently 4/1 odds to win the championship.

No one was happier for the Astros win in the ALDS than a Houston furniture store owner. Mattress Mack wagered $1.5 million on the Astros to win the ALDS. He also placed a $3.5 million bet on the Astros to win the World Series.