HOUSTON (AP) — J.T. Realmuto homered in the 10th inning and the Philadelphia Phillies, saved by right fielder Nick Castellanos’ sliding catch, rallied past the Houston Astros 6-5 Friday night in the World Series opener.
Down 5-0 early against Astros ace Justin Verlander, the Phillies became the first team in 20 years to overcome a five-run deficit to win a World Series game.
They can thank Castellanos for getting the chance. Known much more for his bat than glove, he rushed in to make a terrific grab on Jeremy Peña’s blooper with two outs in the ninth inning and a runner on second.
Realmuto, who hit a tying, two-run double in the fifth off Verlander, completed the comeback when he led off the 10th by sending a fastball from Luis García into the seats in right field.
Kyle Tucker homered twice for the Astros, who had been 7-0 in this postseason.
Houston had a chance in the 10th when Alex Bregman doubled with one out. After Yuli Gurriel drew a two-out walk, David Robertson bounced a wild pitch that put runners on second and third.
Pinch-hitter Aledmys Díaz was then hit by a 2-0 pitch from David Robertson — but plate umpire James Hoye ruled that Díaz leaned into the pitch and didn’t permit him to go to first to load the bases.
Díaz grounded out on a 3-1 pitch to end it.
The last team to blow a 5-0 lead in the World Series was the 2002 San Francisco Giants, who squandered their chance in Game 6 to close out the Angels and win the title under manager Dusty Baker.
Baker saw it happen again this time as manager of the Astros, by the same 6-5 final score.
The 106-win Astros hadn’t lost to anyone since Philadelphia beat them on Oct. 3 to clinch a wild-card spot as a third-place team.
Houston raced out to a big lead thanks in large part to Tucker’s two homers. But the Phillies stormed back as Verlander again struggled in the World Series.
Perfect as he took a 5-0 lead into the fourth, he exited after the fifth with the score 5-all. That left him 0-6 with a 6.07 ERA in eight career World Series starts — hardly the line for a pitcher who’s expected to soon pick up his third Cy Young Award.
The Astros fell to 0-5 in World Series openers and dropped their first game this postseason after sweeping in the AL Division Series and AL Championship Series.
Seranthony Domínguez pitched a scoreless ninth to get the win when Castellanos made another stellar ninth-inning catch this postseason, this one definitely a game-saving play.
With Jose Altuve on second base after his two-out single and stolen base, Peña hit a ball that came off the bat at 68 mph and went only about 200 feet. Castellanos ran a long way, then with a lunge made the inning-ending catch while sliding to the ground.
In the opener of the NL Division Series against Atlanta, Castellanos drove in three runs and helped preserve the lead with a somewhat similar catch in the ninth of that 7-6 win.
In the World Series for the fourth time in six years — and after losing to Atlanta in six games last year — these Astros are looking to give Baker his first title as a manager and get their second championship after winning it in 2017, a title tainted by a sign-stealing scandal.
The surprising Phillies, who have two championships, are in the World Series for the first time since 2009. They bounced back from a 21-29 start that led to manager Joe Girardi’s firing with a 66-46 finish to reach the playoffs.
They won their eighth pennant by dispatching the San Diego Padres in five games in the NLCS under manager Rob Thomson.
Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler opposes Framber Valdez when the series continues Saturday night.
By KRISTIE RIEKEN AP Sports Writer