Peña’s 18th-inning HR sends Astros past Mariners for sweep

Jeremy Peña scored in the 18th inning and the Astros defeated the Mariners 1-0 on Saturday to advance to the AL Championship Series for the sixth straight season.

SEATTLE (AP) — Jeremy Peña scored in the 18th inning and the Houston Astros defeated the Seattle Mariners 1-0 on Saturday to advance to the AL Championship Series for the sixth straight season.

Peña drove a slider from Penn Murfee deep to left center for the rookie shortstop’s first playoff homer, delivering the only run in an afternoon of dominant pitching and empty drives to the plate. The 18 innings was the longest game in playoff history.

Houston spoiled Seattle’s first playoff home appearance since 2001, ending a three-game ALDS win. Next up on Wednesday is the New York Yankees or Cleveland Guardians in Game 1 of the ALCS.

While Yordan Alvarez scored the big hits in the first two games in Houston, it was Pena who set the table for Alvarez’s chances. As Game 3 entered the sixth hour, Peña dealt the Mariners another painful blow that ended their brief return to the postseason.

After 21 years, Seattle fans welcomed playoff baseball back to T-Mobile Park. They got their money’s worth, and then some.

Three previous playoff games reached the 18th inning before the end, one with Houston. The Astros defeated the Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS 7-6 in 18 innings on Chris Burke’s homer late in the game.

Game 2 of the 2014 NLDS between San Francisco and Washington and Game 3 of the 2018 World Series between Los Angeles and Boston also went 18 innings.

But those games had runs. This produced nothing until Peña’s swing in a 3-2 place.

Seattle’s best scoring opportunity was Julio Rodríguez’s line drive, which smacked off the wall in the eighth inning. Seattle had runners in 13th and 17th in goal position but failed to get a crucial two-out hit against Houston’s excellent bullpen.

Unlike baseball’s regular season, there is no automatic runner when playoff games go into extra innings.

Luis Garcia worked five innings for the win. The Astros bullpen allowed five hits, batting 15 after six innings from starter Lance McCullers Jr.

Seattle’s bullpen was almost as good. To Rookie George Kirby pitched seven inningsnine Mariners reliefs combined for 11 five-stroke innings.

The teams struck 42 times combined, beating the postseason record of 39 set by the Guardians and Rays last week in their AL wildcard match that went scoreless 15 innings before Oscar Gonzalez’s home run sent Cleveland into the ALDS.

Houston advanced despite a tough performance from Jose Altuve, who went 0 for 8 in Game 3 for the first time in his career and was unbeaten in 16 at-bats in the series.

Altuve joined Xander Bogaerts in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series against the Dodgers as the only player to go 0-for-8 or worse in a postseason game. But Houston’s other plays came through, none bigger than his young shortstop, who took a prominent role after Carlos Correa went free.

Peña’s homer was his only hit in eight at-bats. But it was his contributions in the first two games that helped Houston travel to Seattle with a 2-0 lead in the series.

For Mariners fans, watching the drama was an excruciating outpouring of emotion and nerve for most of the 6 hours and 22 minutes.

Hours before the first pitch, lines were snaking in front of the entrance. With 90 minutes before Seattle took the field, half the stadium appeared to be full, and when all the seats were taken Felix Hernandez went out from midfield to throw a ceremonial first pitch to deafening applause.

The energy and noise that accompanied two decades of anticipation was pure exhilaration at first, but grew more edgy the longer zeros remained on the scoreboard. With the 14th inning celebrated just before the five hour mark, these fans were on the verge of exhaustion and ready for the finale.

It came four innings later and was a disappointing close to two decades of waiting.

KING RETURNS

Hernandez spent 15 seasons with the Mariners but never had the opportunity to field in the postseason. Hernandez won 169 games and had a career 3.42 ERA, last pitching for Seattle in 2019.

SMOKY AIR

Seattle’s return to the postseason was played out with a smoky haze and terrible air quality engulfing the Puget Sound region. A wind shift and wildfire still smoldering in the Cascade Mountains created a dingy haze over T-Mobile Park. Seattle’s air quality index is 161 on the first pitch.

https://www.king5.com/article/sports/mlb/mariners/peas-18th-inning-hr-sends-astros-past-mariners-for-sweep/281-48661bb7-5de0-4c51-bea6-05794f64f7eb Peña’s 18th-inning HR sends Astros past Mariners for sweep

Emma Bowman

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