Game 5 of the World Series was supposed to be a titanic matchup of pitching greatness between Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer. The latter, unfortunately, was scratched after suffering back spasms at the worst possible time. The former decided to turn a billed two-hander into a one-man play. And Washingtonians can't like the way this one ended. They can't like how their American League cousins from Houston have come into town and wrestled control of the series by winning all three weekend matchups.
Cole, pitching the biggest game of his life and for his future, was predictably excellent. The steely-eyed right hander twirled seven innings of one-run ball, surrendering only three hits and striking out nine. He faced real pressure only once, working out of a first-and-third, no-out jam in the second inning without allowing a tally.
When the Astros brought Cole in from Pittsburgh, they paired him with Justin Verlander at the top of an already formidable rotation. The hope was that he could become a reasonable facsimile of Verlander, a throwback big-game pitcher who excels under peak pressure. Their wildest dreams have now been realized as Cole has become Verlander in every meaningful way.
After going 20-5 and leading the American League in both ERA and strikeouts, Cole has provided a moving postseason encore. He's now 4-1 with a paltry 1.72 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 36.2 innings. There is a small chance he talks his way into a relief appearance in a hypothetical Game 7, but if this is it for the 29-year-old, it's been a hell of a ride.
That's the way the Astros should look at it, too. Cole is poised to garner an absurd contract in the offseason. The New York Yankees and other suitors are trying to figure out a way to clear out a $250-$300 million paycheck for his services. Last night may as well have been a four-hour infomercial with big font flashing THIS GUY IS SO WORTH IT. The combination of electric stuff and mental mettle is rare.
In Swingers parlance, Cole is so money. And he knows it. Hell, everyone who has turned on baseball this month knows it. But this morning he awakes on a new level. What he did Sunday night -- in concert with his previous four starts -- puts him on a historical pedestal. It also made him so much future cash. Nice little 1-2 punch there.