PHILADELPHIA — Justin Verlander overcame an early scare to clinch the World Series victory that had eluded him for years, Jeremy Pena hit a go-ahead home run and the Houston Astros beat the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 on Thursday. Philadelphia, to take a 3-2 lead.
The Astros will come home one win from the crowning glory, for which they also have Trey Mancini and Chas McCormick to thank, who made terrific late-inning defensive plays to barely preserve the lead.
Houston took the lead on just the fourth pitch from Noah Syndergaard, on Pena’s RBI single, but Kyle Schwarber homered in the bottom of the inning.
It seemed to revive Verlander’s Fall Classic nightmares, including the five-run lead he squandered in Game 1, when Philadelphia won 6-5 in 10 innings.
This time he took the victory.
He had to wait 16 years for it.
“I got the rookie treatment after the game,” Verlander said. “They put me in a wheelbarrow and took me to the showers, dousing me with all kinds of things. It was one of the most enjoyable moments in my career.”
“I can already say that I have one,” he added.
Peña had three hits, including the RBI single in the first inning. Another single in the eighth preceded an RBI grounder by Cuban Yordan Álvarez.
He also made a good jump catch at shortstop to stop the Phillies in the third inning and reclaimed the lead in the fourth by hitting four home runs in the playoffs. He is the first rookie shortstop to homer in the World Series.
Following Jean Segura’s one-out RBI single off Rafael Montero in the eighth, Ryan Pressly stopped the threat of runners at the corners by striking out Brandon Marsh and getting Schwarber out on a hard grounder that was crimped at first by Mancini.
The backup first baseman defended for the first time since Oct. 5. He pinch-hit in the top of the inning after 2021 Gold Glove winner Yuli Gurriel took a hit when he got caught between third base and home plate, hurting his right knee.
Mancini fell into foul territory and reached out with his left foot to touch base on Schwarber’s drive.
McCormick also helped make Pressly’s five-out save. Stretching, the center fielder ran into the chain-link fence to catch JT Realmuto’s drive for the second out of the ninth.
“I thought it was a home run,” McCormick said.
After Bryce Harper was hit by a pitch, Nick Castellanos grounded out to shortstop, ending an electrifying 3-hour, 57-minute game.
After a day of rest, Game 6 will be played Saturday night in Houston. In previous series that were 2-2, the winner of the fifth was crowned champion 31 of 47 times.
Verlander is one of five surviving Astros from the team that was caught stealing signs in 2017. He was 0-6 with an ugly 6-07 ERA in eight Fall Classic starts, dating back to his rookie year with Detroit in 2006. , black spot in a career for a pitcher with 244 wins and is a strong candidate for his third Cy Young Award.
Pitching on an extra day of rest and a stubble, the 39-year-old right-hander allowed one run on four hits in five innings, walking four and striking out six — including four straight in the fourth and fifth. He lowered that ERA in the World Series to 5.63.
Philadelphia loaded the bases in the second on a single by Segura and a pair of walks. After receiving a visit from pitching coach Bill Murphy, Verlander got around the danger by striking out Rhys Hoskins with a slider.
“Those kinds of pitchers have to be hunted down early,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “The pitching coach visited him and immediately appealed to his slider and he pitched better.”
For the Astros, the Venezuelan José Altuve 4-2 with two runs scored. The Dominican Peña 4-3 with a run scored and two produced. The Cubans Álvarez 4-0 with an RBI, Yuli Gurriel 3-1. Puerto Rican Martin Maldonado 4-1.
For the Phillies, Jean Segura 4-2 with an RBI.