The Houston Astros are heading back home completely transformed, and because of it they have moved within one victory of their second World Series title in three seasons.
Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa and George Springer each hit two-run home runs as the visiting Astros took advantage of a last-minute change in starting pitchers by the Washington Nationals to earn a 7-1 victory in Game 5 on Sunday.
Houston, which once trailed the series 2-0, has won three straight and will host Game 6 on Tuesday night. Game 7, if necessary, would be Wednesday night in Houston.
An anticipated matchup of staff aces fizzled when the Nationals scratched Max Scherzer earlier Sunday because of neck and back spasms. Right-hander Joe Ross started instead, giving up home runs to Alvarez and Correa in the first four innings.
Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole made his start as expected, rebounding from a loss in Game 1 to earn the victory. He gave up one run -- a Juan Soto home run -- and three hits over seven innings, striking out nine and walking two.
"His fastball was pretty good today, better than the last time we faced them five days ago," Astros manager AJ Hinch said on MLB Network. "Gerrit Cole, he's the real deal. He knows how to pitch, he knows how to finish and he knows what this game meant to this series. There was nobody better to have on the mound."
Cole's 47 strikeouts in the 2019 postseason tied an American League record. While Hinch was praising Cole's fastball, all but one of Cole's strikeouts Sunday came on a breaking ball.
"I just thought we needed to execute better pitches this time out," Cole said afterward on the FOX broadcast. "I didn't realize that was how we got so many strikeouts. I guess this situation just called for breaking balls, and that's what we were feeling."
After an off day Monday, the Astros will get their first chance to clinch the title Tuesday in Game 6 with Justin Verlander on the mound. The Nationals are expected to counter with Stephen Strasburg.
Neither team has won a home game in the series, the first time the visiting team won the first five games of the World Series since the 1996 matchup between the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees (who went on to clinch at home in Game 6). It is just the third time it has happened in World Series history.
Alvarez was the first to get to Ross, hitting a line drive to center field on a 2-1 sinker in the second inning. It was the rookie's first home run of the postseason and first extra-base hit since the American League Division Series.
"During the (ALCS), I was worried about trying to do too much, but once that series was over I said, 'Let me go back to the plan I was using during the season and not do too much,'" Alvarez said on the MLB Network broadcast through an interpreter. "That carried over to (the World Series) to the games in Houston and to (Washington)."
Correa's homer in the fourth inning was his first homer of the World Series and third of the postseason. Springer added his two-run shot to left in the ninth off Daniel Hudson, his second of the World Series and fourth of the postseason.
Ross gave up his four runs on five hits over five innings with two walks and one strikeout. It was his second appearance of the World Series after pitching two scoreless innings of relief Friday in Game 3.
The Nationals had a prime scoring chance in the second inning against Cole with runners on first and third and nobody out, but Ryan Zimmerman struck out and Victor Robles grounded into a double play.
Soto's home run, coming in the seventh, was the second of the World Series and fourth of the postseason for the Nationals rookie.
The Astros added a run in the eighth inning on an RBI single from Yuli Gurriel.
Having Strasburg on the mound Tuesday, and with two victories already on the road in the World Series, the Nationals are thinking positive even while heading to Houston in the midst of a three-game losing streak.
"You listen to them now when we walked in, they said, 'Hey, we're going to Houston to win that first game and get to a Game 7,'" Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "I told them, the focus is Game 6. We have Stephen Strasburg on the mound. I like our chances. Keep us in the ballgame, who knows what can happen?"