Astros Sweep in D.C. Head Home One-Win Shy of a Title: Four Takeaways

Yordan Alvarez had a two-run homer in the second inning of game five.
Yordan Alvarez had a two-run homer in the second inning of game five. Photo by Jack Gorman
In 1994, the Houston Rockets lost the first two games of the Western Conference semis at home to the Phoenix Suns. Ultimately, they won the series and their second straight title. On Sunday, after two home losses in the World Series, the Astros completed a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals in D.C. with a 7-1 win, and return home to Houston to try and complete their second title in three seasons.

Many struggles the Astros seemed to have through much of the postseason and certainly the first couple games of the World Series were wiped out in the nation's capital. Gerrit Cole went seven dominant innings allowing just one run with nine strikeouts. And the Astros got three two-run homers to put them in the driver's seat against Joe Ross, who started when Max Scherzer was scratched with back spasms.

In the end, the Astros headed for home just one win shy of their second championship. Justin Verlander will face Stephen Strasburg in game six Tuesday. We will miss "Baby Shark," but, until then, here are four takeaways.

The guy that caught the ball with his chest while holding his beers is the hero we all need right now.

The news out of Washington D.C. for the last few years hasn't exactly been filled with positives. Then, we got this guy "catching" Yordan Alvarez's home run in the second inning.

It feels good to cheer someone in the nation's capital, particularly after the guy who lives in the White House was booed earlier in the game. This hero may not wear a cape, but we know he drinks Bud Light and he is damn serious about it.

Joe Smith...set up man?

How can you not feel good about reliever Joe Smith. The 35-year-old veteran submarine pitcher had never been to a World Series and here he is in game five as a set up man. Much of the reason he came in for the eighth instead of Will Harris is because they are trying to preserve Harris and there was a four-run lead, but Smith got it done once again and it was a wonderful moment for Smith and the Astros.

Bats that have been down appear back.

Yordan Alvarez (second), Carlos Correa (fourth) and George Springer (seventh) all had two-run homers. Alvarez has had a good series (he was three for three on Sunday), but Correa and Springer had struggled. Overall, the Astros bats have broken out in the last three games for really the first time in the postseason. And some of the guys who haven't been great are starting to see the ball well again.

Gerrit Cole was Gerrit Cole again.

After a rough start in Game 1, Cole went back to the guy with 26 straight wins. He was rarely in trouble and threw 110 pitches through seven to get his fourth victory of the postseason. He was masterful, particularly with his breaking ball, getting nine Ks and walking a pair. The only run he gave up with a home run by youngster Juan Soto. Otherwise, he was absolutely dominant as he has been all season.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke