Peña Power: Jeremy Peña’s 18th inning blast powers the Astros to a 1-0 win and ALDS sweep of the Mariners

Peña Power: Jeremy Peña’s 18th inning blast powers the Astros to a 1-0 win and ALDS sweep of the Mariners

Seattle had a chance to cheer on the Mariners in a playoff baseball game for the first time in over twenty years. Neither team had much to cheer about outside of terrific pitching, but the Astros would put the exclamation point on Game 3.

Tied 0-0 until the top of the eighteenth, with several missed opportunities by both teams to score up to that point, Houston would break through with a Jeremy Peña solo home run to lift them to a 1-0 win and a series sweep.

McCullers Jr. holds his own in a pitching duel

After a 1-2-3 top half against the top of Houston’s order by George Kirby, Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound in the bottom of the first. He matched Kirby, getting through the Mariners in order on eight pitches. Houston threatened to start the scoring in the top of the second after back-to-back one-out singles by Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel. Yet, both runners would be left stranded as Kirby maintained the scoreless tie with strikeouts of the next two batters. 

McCullers Jr. struggled with Marvin Hudson’s tight strike zone in the bottom of the second, issuing two walks to start the frame, but rebounded by retiring the next three in a row to keep the game tied 0-0. Houston wasted another chance in the top of the fourth, loading the bases with two outs but yet again failed to score. 

Both starters continued dueling, matching scoreless frame with scoreless frame through six innings. That would be the end of the day for McCullers Jr., who posted an excellent line for the Astros: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 88 P. Kirby would do just a touch better, making it through seven, including getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve to end the top of the seventh and strand two more Astros runners. 

Stalemate into extras

As things shifted to Houston’s bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, Hector Neris entered and sat down Seattle 1-2-3 to keep it scoreless. Rafael Montero was next, taking over in the bottom of the eighth with the game still deadlocked at zero. Montero worked around a two-out double by Julio Rodriguez, sending things to the ninth. 

The Astros had another scoring opportunity in the top of the ninth, with Yuli Gurriel leading off with a single followed by a hit batter. Both runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt, giving Houston runners on second and third with one out, but once again, they’d get turned away on strikeouts by Christian Vázquez and Jose Altuve. 

Ryan Pressly was looking to get this one to extra innings when he entered in the top of the ninth and did so by stranding the winning run on second base. After a 1-2-3 top of the tenth, Bryan Abreu was the next reliever out for the Astros, and he used a ten-pitch frame to keep the game going.

The marathon continues

After two strikeouts and a flyout in the top of the eleventh, Ryne Stanek made his postseason debut in the bottom half. He made a strong start to his postseason, getting a 1-2-3 inning to push the game to the twelfth. 

A pitch hit Chas McCormick to start the twelfth inning, but it wouldn’t matter as Paul Sewald would set down the next three batters. Hunter Brown had the bottom of the inning and gave up a one-out single before a double play wiped it out. 

After another futile half-inning at the plate by Houston’s offense, Brown kept going in the bottom of the thirteenth. Seattle had the winning run on second after a walk to Julio Rodriguez, who stole a base but would not move further. Another three up, three down inning awaited the Astros in the top of the fourteenth, as they had to move on to Luis Garcia to pitch in the bottom of the inning.

Garcia gave up a two-out single but would keep the runner on first as he ended another threat by Seattle. Another inning came and went the same way, with Garcia moving things on to the sixteenth. Alex Bregman reached base with a one-out single in the top of the sixteenth, then moved to second on a walk to Kyle Tucker and third on a flyout, but still, no runs would come. 

Peña helps send the Astros to the ALCS

The grind continued in the top of the seventeenth, another three up, three down inning for the Astros. Garcia came back out in the bottom half and stranded a runner to advance things to the eighteenth. FINALLY, in the top of the eighteenth inning, Jeremy Peña would start the scoring for the night, getting a solo homer to lead off the inning, giving the Astros a 1-0 lead. 

Garcia came back out for his fifth inning of work in the bottom of the eighteenth, and he would get a 1-2-3 frame to finish off the Mariners and the ALDS.

News and notes

Six in a row: With their sweep of Seattle, the Astros have punched their ticket to the ALCS for the sixth season in a row. They trail only the Braves of the 90s, who made eight straight for the record of most consecutive LCS appearances. 

ALCS Game 1: The first American League Championship Series game will be on Wednesday, Oct. 18. With NLCS Game 2 on the same day, the game’s start time is TBD, with the Astros likely handing the ball to Justin Verlander. 

Altuve’s unusual slump: With a 0-for-8 day, Jose Altuve is a paltry 0-for-16 in the ALDS, reaching base only once on a walk in Game 1.

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