Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kevin M Cox/AP/Shutterstock (13435989b) Houston Astros' Jeremy Pena celebrates after hitting a two-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Corey Kluber during the first inning of a baseball game, in Houston Rays Astros Baseball, Houston, United States - 02 Oct 2022

Fred Faour: 5 thoughts on the Astros heading into Game 2 of the series with the Mariners

Tuesday’s game was an epic, for the ages finish. It’s easy to take for granted because the Astros have given us so many of those. What’s next and what else was key in Game 1? Here you go:

1 – Hats off to Jeremy Pena. His clutch, ninth-inning single kept the Astros alive and set up Yordan Alvarez’s heroics. Without that hit, the Astros are staring at a 1-0 deficit. Pena’s rookie season was above average, hitting .253 with 22 HR, 63 RBI and a .715 OPS. His numbers stacked up well with the man he replaced, Carlos Correa. Correa had a better batting average (.291) and OPS (8.34), but the HR/RBI numbers were almost identical. (22, 64). Pena more than manned the ship in the regular season. The concern? How would he do in the postseason compared to the leadership and clutch play Correa brought. One game in? So far, so good. His hit got lost but Alvarez doesn’t happen if he does not pull it off.

2 – Also, kudos to Alex Bregman. His two run shot in the eighth got the Astros within 7-5, and set up the ninth inning heroics. If Bregman has a big postseason, the Astros will go far. It is little plays like this one and Pena’s hit that define a championship team.

3 – Framber time. A lot has been made of Mariners ace Luis Castillo, acquired at the trade deadline. Castillo was 8-6 with a 2.99 ERA combined with Cincinnati and Seattle. (With the Mariners, 4-2, 3.17). But the idea that the Mariners have some kind of edge here is ludicrous. Framber Valdez was 17-6 with a 2.84 ERA and WHIP of 1.16, and set a major league record for single-season consecutive quality starts. He did struggle in two of his last three, but the Astros have the edge here, and Valdez has been gold all year.

4 – Dusty still has an advantage. Baseball managers do not make a huge difference generally, but in the playoffs, one decision can change everything. Scott Servais learned that when he inexplicably trotted out Robbie Ray to face Alvarez and then challenge him. Dusty has done everything but win it all. Don’t be shocked if he makes more right moves than Servais.

5 – Closing in. Every game is big in a five game series, but if the Astros can win on Thursday, they would have Lance McCullers lined up for Game 3 and presumably a rested bullpen. Teams that go up 2-0 in a five-game series are 77-10. The Astros could easily do that and be primed to close this out in Seattle.

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