SEATTLE Seattle Jeremy Pena homered in the 18th innings The Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners by 1-0 on Saturday in order to reach the AL Championship Series for the sixth consecutive year.
Pena hit a slider off Penn Murfee’s deep left-center to score the shortstop’s first homer in the playoffs and the sole run in a game that was rife with impressive pitching and empty visits to the plate. The 18-inning span was the longest game ever played in the playoffs.
“Man this was a long-distance game. You still have to get locked in, attempt to make solid at-bats,” Pena said. “I was just trying to stay inside the baseball, drove it in the gap.”
The Seattle team was smitten by its first playoff game since 2001, Houston finished a sweep of three games from the ALDS. Next up is the New York Yankees or Cleveland Guardians in Game 1 of the ALCS on Wednesday.
While Yordan Alvarez received the biggest hits in the opening two games in Houston It was Pena who set the stage for Alvarez’s chances. As Game 3 entered it’s sixth quarter, Pena delivered another painful hit to the Mariners that ended their quick return to postseason play.
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In the last 21 years Seattle supporters were thrilled to see playoffs back to T-Mobile Park. They received their money’s worth and then more.
Three playoff games have reached the 18th inning before the game ended and one of them involved Houston. The Astros defeated Atlanta’s Atlanta Braves 7-6 in 18 innings in Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS thanks to Chris Burke’s winning home run.
The second game of 2014’s NLDS played between San Francisco and Washington and Game 3 of the 2018 World Series between Los Angeles and Boston also lasted 18 innings.
However, those games also had run. The one that was not able to generate anything prior to Pena’s swing on an 3-2 pitch.
“I feel like in the playoffs you can’t try and do too much, especially the later the game goes,” Pena stated.
Seattle’s most effective scoring opportunity was Julio Rodriguez’s liner drive that bounced off the wall in the eighth innings. Seattle had runners on the scoreboard between the 17th and 13th but they couldn’t score a crucial two-out hit against Houston’s formidable bullpen.
In contrast to baseball’s regular season, there’s no automatic runner in playoff games are played over extra innings.
Luis Garcia worked five innings to earn the victory. The Astros bullpen gave up five runs and struck 15 after six innings pitched by the starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr.
“Watching all the action, the team is doing a very excellent job, and I’m satisfied with their work. … It was just me who tried to assist,” Garcia said.
Seattle’s bullpen was almost as excellent. The Mariners bullpen was nearly as good after debut George Kirby threw seven innings nine innings, nine Mariners relievers threw eleven innings pitched with five hits baseball.
The two teams combined to strike at 42 different times. breaking their postseason records of 39 that was set by Guardians and Rays last week in their AL wild-card game which went without scoring for 15 innings prior to Oscar Gonzalez’s homer brought Cleveland towards the ALDS.
“Their pitching was fantastic today and they also pitched incredibly well. We just kept putting the zero in there, and put the zero there and you’re thinking we’re going to to make it through since we’ve had repeatedly failed,” Seattle manager Scott Servais stated. “It’s kind of what we’re accustomed to playing – those tight games and finding a way but there were no errors made in that game today.”
Houston was able to advance despite a shaky performance from Jose Altuve, who went to 0-8 during Game 3 in the series for his first career start. He did not score a hit in 16 innings during the series.
Altuve was joined by Xander Bogaerts for Game 3 of the 2018 World Series versus the Dodgers as the only players who went at least 0-8 in a postseason match. But Houston’s other pieces also came through, none more so than the young shortstop who assumed a leading position after Carlos Correa departed in free agency.
Pena’s homer was his sole hit in his eight at-bats. It was his performance during the first two games that saw Houston reach Seattle in a two-game advantage throughout the game.
For Mariners fans watching the drama unfold was a tense jumble of nerves and emotions throughout the six 22.2 minutes.
Lines swung around the gates during the opening hours before the opening day. Half of the stadium was filled within 90 minutes prior to when Seattle started their game, and all seats were filled at the time Felix Hernandez walked out from center field to throw out a ceremonial opening pitch to an erupting cheer.
The excitement and roar that came with the anticipation for two decades was pure joy beginning but it turned more anxious the longer the zeros remained in the scores. At the point that the 14th-inning stretch was hailed as at the end of the five-hour mark fans were on the edge of exhaustion and waiting for the final twitch.
It was not after four innings and was a disappointing finale after more than two decades of anticipation.
Hernandez played for 15 seasons with the Mariners but did not have the chance to pitch for the Mariners in postseason. Hernandez had a record of 169 wins and had a record 3.42 ERA, last pitching for Seattle in the year 2019.
Seattle’s return to postseason was accompanied by an ominous haze, and the worst air quality that swept over this Puget Sound region. The shift in winds and wildfires still burning within The Cascade Mountains created a dingy fog over T-Mobile Park. A quality of air index for Seattle at the start of the game was recorded at 161.