Astros vs. Rays score: Houston earns trip to third consecutive ALCS as Gerrit Cole dominates in Game 5

The Houston Astros are heading to the ALCS for the third consecutive year. The Astros eliminated the Rays, 6-1, in the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS on Thursday at Minute Maid Park. Houston will face the Yankees in the AL Championship Series.

The Astros' first four runs of the game were scored in the first inning, coming on five hits. Jose Altuve hit an RBI single, Alex Bregman followed up with a two-run double and Yuli Gurriel drove in the fourth run with a base hit. Houston knocked Rays starter Tyler Glasnow out of the game after just 2 2/3 innings.

The Rays' offense couldn't get anything going against Astros starter Gerrit Cole, who finished with another stellar postseason performance. Cole, who struck out 15 in Game 2, allowed just one run in eight innings on Thursday. The fireballer struck out 10 and walked two, getting 19 swinging strikes on 107 pitches. The Rays notched just two hits off Cole, and Eric Sogard's second-inning solo homer provided Tampa Bay's only run. 

For more on this game, here are our big takeaways.

Why the Astros won

Two things needed to happen for Houston to close out this series: 1. Getting another solid start from Gerrit Cole (which they did) and 2. the Astros offense needed to provide a nice cushion for Cole early on (which they also did). With the way Cole was dealing Thursday night, the three-run lead the Astros held for most of the game felt a lot bigger than it was. Then, the added runs from back-to-back homers courtesy of Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley put the Rays away.

Cole has now made 11 consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts -- the longest streak in MLB history. Cole also matched Hall of Famer Mike Mussina for the second-most strikeouts (25) in back-to-back postseason games. The only pitcher with more punch outs is fellow Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, who logged 27 strikeouts in back-to-back postseason games.

With the win, Cole is on a franchise-record 18-game winning streak, a streak that began on May 27 and has spanned his last 23 starts. Thursday's win broke a tie with Roy Face (1959) and Carl Hubbell (1936), and now Cole owns the longest winning streak in a single season in MLB history (including postseason).

Why the Rays lost

Aside from Glasnow's hiccup in the first inning (which may have been because he was tipping pitches), the Rays bullpen held the Astros hitless through the seventh inning. Tampa used eight pitchers after Glasnow's exit, keeping with a trend Kevin Cash used the entire series. In each game of the ALDS, the Rays used at least five pitchers. Entering Thursday's Game 5, their bullpen came in with a 2.75 ERA with 17 strikeouts.

But without any offensive support, Tampa couldn't compete in this game. In the entire game, Tampa finished with only four base runners. The offense just wasn't able to set up enough opportunities for a potential rally. 

Play(s) of the game

The insurance homers from Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley in the eighth inning all but guaranteed the Astros series win.

With Altuve's blast, his 11th postseason homer, he passed Chase Utley for the most by a second baseman.

Until those homers off Emilio Pagan, the Rays were still in the game, only needing three runs to tie the game. With the pair of dingers, Houston has now homered in 30 consecutive games, including in the five games this series and the final 25 games of the regular season. It's the second-longest in MLB, trailing only a 31-game streak set by their upcoming opponent, the New York Yankees, earlier this season.

What's next

The Rays' season comes to an end after their comeback attempt from down 0-2 in the series fell just short, while the Astros advance to the AL Championship Series to face the Yankees. It'll be a rematch of the 2017 ALCS, which the Astros won in seven games. The Yankees are coming off four days of rest after they completed a three-game sweep of the Twins in the ALDS. Game 1 set for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET -- stream via fuboTV (Try for free). The full postseason schedule can be found here.

Relive Game 5

We were with you the entire way updating this story with the latest scores, highlights and analysis from the game. If you are unable to view the live updates below, please click here.

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Katherine Acquavella joined CBS Sports in 2018. Her work has appeared in Yankees Magazine and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum's Memories and Dreams magazine. She is a graduate of St. John's... Full Bio

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