The Houston Astros have advanced to the ALCS for the third consecutive season after a 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays had forced game five on Tuesday after levelling the series at 2-2, but had no answer to Gerrit Cole's dominant display in the decider.
Cole tossed eight innings of one-run baseball allowing two hits, one walk and striking out 10 for Houston to guide his team to a comfortable win.
The Astros got to Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow early in the first, scoring three runs before Tampa even recorded one out. Houston plated four in the first frame when it was all said and done and never looked back.
Houston moves on to the American League Championship Series for the third straight season where they will host the New York Yankees in game one, as they aim for a second World Series appearance in three years.
Cole has arguably been the best pitcher in MLB all season and is definitely the best in the post-season right now. Over his two starts in the ALDS, Cole pitched 15 2/3 innings allowing one run on six hits all while striking out 25 Rays hitters. His 2019 postseason ERA now clocks in at 0.57.
The UCLA product also struck out 10+ batters for the 11th straight start, per MLB.com.
Cole's 25 strikeouts are also the most by an Astros pitcher in a single postseason series.
The 2019 Astros aren't just one of best hitting teams in MLB this season, they're one of the best hitting teams ever and while Tampa's pitching was dominant all year, Houston's hitters finally wore it down.
After dropping the first two games of the series, the Rays' pitching staff buckled down and allowed just four runs over games three and four. Heading into Thursday's decider, manager Kevin Cash said everybody was available in Tampa's bullpen, including former Cy Young winner Blake Snell.
However, it didn't matter much as the Astros struck early, plating four runs in the first off Glasnow. Houston's hitters even got to Tampa's lights-out bullpen as Emilio Pagan allowed back-to-back home runs to lead off the eighth inning, which all but sealed the game.
If it already wasn't evident, Altuve is really, really good.
Houston's second baseman went 2 for 4 at the plate including an RBI single in the first to get the Astros on the board, and a home run in the eighth to help seal the deal.
The 29-year-old's 11 career postseason homers are the most by a second baseman all time and are tied with teammate George Springer for the most in Astros' history, per MLB.com.
Altuve's stellar performance at the plate Thursday not only added to an illustrious postseason career for the Venezuelan native, but helped the Astros' post-season dominance continue.
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