“Fly ball, right-center field. McCormick on the move. He’s at the track, he’s at the wall. Makes the grab! Chas McCormick! Two gone in the ninth!”
Philadelphia’s own Chas McCormick had saved the Houston Astros’ season, putting a dagger in the hearts of the Phillies faithful he grew up cheering alongside. Justin Verlander finally obtained his long awaited first World Series win.
Suffice to say, last night suffered no shortage of histrionics–a surefire Hall-of-Famer laboring in desperation for his first World Series win, leadoff triples, leadoff home runs, bases left loaded, one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see and a grand total of one batter coming to the plate all night without the chance to tie or take the lead.
Game 5 of the 2022 World Series felt more like watching an attempt at defusing a bomb than it did a baseball game. Justin Verlander wasn’t at his best, but did just enough before turning it over to Ryan Pressly and the rest of the Astros bomb squad of a bullpen. Hector Neris, Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Pressly once again extinguished the threat, leaving Houston one win from their second World Series Championship in franchise history.
The path to victory was unique to every other game this series. While the previous four games have featured offensive fireworks, Game 5 was a low-scoring dogfight to the end.
Jose Altuve jumped Noah Syndergaard early, bashing a fastball deep into right center, eerily similar to the landing spot of McCormick’s future heroics no less, for a leadoff triple.
Rookie sensation Jeremy Peña drove in Altuve with a single and it appeared we were on our way to another high scoring affair. Syndergaard settled in and got out of the pickle, holding the Astros to one run.
In the bottom-half of the first, Kyle Schwarber took Justin Verlander’s second pitch fastball into the right-field bleachers, knotting the game at 1-1. Questions again began looming about Verlander’s ability in the World Series, but he too managed to escape the first limiting the Phils to one run.
Both offenses remained scoreless until the fourth. Verlander pitched himself in and out of trouble, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the second.
Syndergaard made it through the lineup once only yielding the one run, providing even more than Philadelphia could have asked for. He stayed in one batter past his limit, hanging a breaking ball to Peña to leadoff the fourth. The shortstop didn’t miss, pummeling the breaking ball into the left field seats.
Just like that, Verlander was in line for his first World Series win. He managed to navigate his way through the fourth and fifth innings, neutralizing the heart of the Phillies’ order one final time in the fifth. His final line wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done: 5 innings, 4 hits, 4 walks, 6 strikeouts. He allowed one earned run in his 94 pitches.
If this was JV’s last start as an Astro, he had done his part, finally rising to the occasion in the World Series. He left in line for the win, entrusting the Astros’ bullpen to seal the deal.
Hector Neris and Bryan Abreu combined for scoreless sixth and seventh innings that were relatively stress-free, especially in light of what was to come.
An insurance run in the 8th for Houston proved to be massive down the stretch. Altuve worked a walk to lead off the inning, advancing to third on a single from Peña. Altuve scored one batter later on a groundout to first from Yordan Alvarez, pushing the lead to 3-1. The middle infielders left their fingerprints all over this game, going a combined 5-8 and scoring all three runs.
Rafael Montero would be trusted to handle the 8th. If any of the Astros’ leverage arms had shown signs of shakiness in the last two rounds, it’s been Montero. For the fourth time in five games, the Phillies got a look at Montero and they took full advantage. Philadelphia worked two walks before a hit from Jean Segura, their first with a runner in scoring position in 20 batters, trimmed the deficit to one.
Montero left having faced four batters, retiring one. Ryan Pressly emerged from the bullpen, tasked with a five-out save. The elite closer made short work of Brandon Marsh, striking him out on three sliders.
With two outs and runners on the corners, the ever dangerous Schwarber stepped into the box. Schwarber turned on a slider, roping a 98.6 mph one-hopper down the line. The Astros’ sure-handed first baseman Yuli Gurriel had left with knee discomfort after a collision on the basepaths in the seventh.
In his place was deadline acquisition Trey Mancini, playing his first inning in the field since October 5th. Mancini was brought to Houston for his bat rather than his glove. Though Mancini has been suffering through the most prolonged slump of his career, his time as an Astro will be remembered fondly after the biggest defensive play of his career saved at least two runs.
The Astros left two on in the top of the 9th, meaning Pressly would face the Phillies biggest bats with no room for error. He retired Rhys Hoskins without breaking a sweat before Game 1 hero J.T. Realmuto stepped into the box. Realmuto was 0-16 with 11 strikeouts since his Game 1 game-winning home run. The all-star felt more than due.
Realmuto blasted a 1-1 slider into the right center gap. Pressly turned into the night sky and watched the ball fly.
Astros’ centerfielder Chas McCormick got a great jump, tracking it to the wall. McCormick has often been pulled/moved to left field in the 9th this postseason in favor of Mauricio Dubon in center, but Gurriel’s injury didn’t allow Dusty to make the move. Chas more than capitalized, breaking the heart of his hometown with one of the best catches in World Series history.
Realmuto and Pressly each stood stunned in disbelief, arms on their heads, trying to process what had transpired. McCormick has had a polarizing season, including a brief demotion to AAA, but has remained professional and emerged as by far the most consistent option of the Astros’ centerfield timeshare. In the biggest turning point of the season, McCormick more than met the moment.
Pressly hit Bryce Harper with a slider before retiring Nick Castellanos on a groundout to short to close the door on Game 5. It was never pretty, never comfortable and never felt secure, but Houston prevailed. Having taken two of the three games at Citizens Bank Park, the Astros return to Minute Maid with a 3-2 lead, needing to win one of the next two games to solidify their dynasty status.
Verlander had played with fire in his five innings. Mancini made the play of his career. Montero left the door wide open for a team that has made a living off of comebacks this postseason. The ‘Stros squandered runners in scoring position all night long. Chas McCormick made the catch of a lifetime. All things considered, Houston pulled off a heist in Game 5.
The Phillies’ bludgeoning in Game 3 lived up to the “Bedlam at the Bank” moniker. The Astros combined no-hitter in Game 4 turned Bedlam into Bedtime.
McCormick’s series saving effort to send the series back to Minute Maid with a 3-2 lead will be immortalized in the city, talked about for the decades to come.
If Game 3 was “Bedlam at the Bank” and Game 4 was “Bedtime at the Bank,” then Game 5 needs a fitting moniker to commemorate Chas’ heroics.
The Astros are coming back to Houston needing one win for their second World Championship; they’re coming home having successfully completed “The Bank Robbery.”