HOUSTON (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – It was not easy for the team with the best record in baseball in 2019 (107-55), but the Houston Astros are headed back to the American League Championship Series for the third season in a row.

Gerrit Cole and the Astros defeated the Tampa Bay Rays 6-1 Thursday night at Minute Maid Park to win the American League Divisional Series three games to two.

The Astros scored four runs in the first inning and Cole dominated for eight innings, striking out 10 Rays and giving up only one run on a solo home run by Eric Sogard in the second inning.

Gerrit Cole #45 of the Houston Astros delivers the pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning in game five of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 10, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

The Astros tacked on two runs in the 8th inning with back-to-back home runs by Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve.

Michael Brantley #23 of the Houston Astros hits a single against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning in game five of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 10, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Roberto Osuna pitched a hitless ninth to finish off the win.

Rays manager Kevin Cash had said he thought Glasnow could throw about 90 pitches in this one, but he’d seen enough of the big right-hander after 40 pitches and lifted him with two outs in the third for Blake Snell.

Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, got the next four outs in his second career relief appearance after getting the save in Game 4.

The Rays wound up using nine pitchers.

On deck, the heavyweight matchup so many fans wanted to see: Jose Altuve and the 107-win Astros against Aaron Judge and the 103-win Yankees.

Game 1 is Saturday night in Houston — the Astros won four of seven meetings this season.

Houston beat the Yankees in a seven-game ALCS on the way to its first championship in 2017.

The Astros also won the 2015 AL wild-card game at Yankee Stadium.

Gerrit Cole #45 and A.J. Hinch #14 of the Houston Astros embrace after their team’s 6-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in game five of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 10, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)