– Gerrit Cole trudged slowly off the mound, wiped the sweat from his upper lip and took a handshake and pat on the backside from manager AJ Hinch.

Walking away without a lead — not something Cole and the Houston Astros are used to. Certainly not what they expected in the World Series opener.

The Washington Nationals roughed up Cole for five runs in seven innings Tuesday night, beating Houston 5-4 to jump ahead in the best-of-seven series.

Cole suffered his first loss since May 22. Set to cash in as a free agent this offseason, he had won a single-season record 19 consecutive decisions. His postseason prior to Tuesday was nearly perfect: 3-0 record, one run allowed, and 32 strikeouts in 22 ⅔ innings.

In his first World Series appearance and ninth postseason game, the 29-year-old right-hander gave up his most runs since the White Sox tagged him for six in that May 22 loss.

"He's been so good for so long that there builds this thought of invincibility and that it's impossible to beat him," Hinch said. "So when it happens it is a surprise to all of us."

The Astros gave Cole a lead with a two-run first, but a Ryan Zimmerman shot an inning later cut the lead to 1. Cole didn't even turn to watch where that one landed, simply throwing his right hand up and preparing for the next pitch.

Houston still had the lead when 20-year-old Juan Soto knocked a fastball from Cole onto the train tracks atop left field. Soto struck again in the fifth, lining a two-run double that stretched Washington's edge to 5-2.

"The Zimmerman pitch was a mistake, and Zimmerman made him pay with a homer," Hinch said. "He never really controlled Soto the whole night. He punched him the first at-bat and then after that Soto took some really good swings"

Along with teammate and Game 2 starter Justin Verlander, Cole is a favorite for the AL Cy Young Award. He led the league with a 2.50 ERA, and he allowed just seven home runs over the last two months of the regular season.

Cole struck out six, his lowest total since punching out four on Aug. 1 against Cleveland. After leading the majors with a career-high 326 strikeouts, he never looked so dominant Tuesday.

"These guys are really tough to put away," Hinch said. "They don't strike out a lot. And they proved tonight they're putting the ball in play."