After fellow starters Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander failed to close out the Rays, Cole cruised through eight innings to guide the Astros into the AL Championship Series. The ace allowed only one earned run on two hits, notching 10 strikeouts and walking two.
With the victory, the Astros will play the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Game 1 is Saturday night in Houston.
The Astros jumped on Rays starter Tyler Glasnow in the first inning, tagging him for four runs in the opening frame. Glasnow gave up four runs on five hits across 2 2/3 innings before being pulled.
Jose Altuve plated George Springer with an RBI single to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Alex Bregman doubled to deep right-center field and scored Michael Brantley and Altuve before Yuli Gurriel's RBI single, extending Houston's lead to 4-0.
Rays second baseman Eric Sogard belted a solo home run off Cole in the second inning. Brantley and Altuve each added solo homers in the bottom of the eighth to seal the victory.
The Astros, who had an MLB-best 107 wins in the regular season, won four of seven meetings against the Yankees this season. After Thursday's win, Houston has advanced to three consecutive AL Championship Series.