Jeremy Pena hits 18th inning home run, Astros sweep Mariners

SEATTLE — Jeremy Pena homered in the 18th inning as the Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 1-0 Saturday to advance to the American League Championship Series for the sixth straight year.

Pena went 0 for 7 in the game, pushing Pena’s slider from Penn Murfee to left center for the rookie shortstop’s first playoff homer, proving Played the only game in an afternoon full of dominant pitches and airdrops. The 18-inning game was the longest in playoff history.

It was the fourth 18th inning home run in MLB playoff history.

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

The Astros’ sixth straight ALCS win is the second-longest streak since the round was created in 1969 and the longest in American League history.

While Jordan Alvarez had a big run in Houston’s first two games, Pena set the stage for Alvarez’s chances. As Game 3 entered the sixth hour, Pena delivered another painful blow to the Mariners, ending their brief playoff return.

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

However, the Mariners became the first team in MLB history to lose 18 innings and lose a home run in separate games in the same playoff series.

The first three playoff games went into the 18th inning, including one involving Houston. In Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS, the Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 7-6 in 18 innings, a game-ending homer by Chris Burke.

The second game of the 2014 NLDS between San Francisco and Washington and the third game of the 2018 World Series between Los Angeles and Boston also played 18 innings.

But those races have already run. This time failed to produce any results before Pena made a 3-2 swing.

Seattle’s best scoring opportunity came when Julio Rodriguez hit a straight drive to the wall in the eighth. Seattle had scorers in the 13th and 17th, but failed to get a key two-pointer against Houston’s super bullpen.

Unlike baseball’s regular season, when the playoffs go into overtime, there are no automatic base runners.

Luis Garcia played five innings for the win. The Astros’ bullpen allowed five hits and struck out 15 after six innings from starter Lance McCullers Jr.

Seattle’s bullpen is nearly as good, with 20 total strikeouts. After rookie George Kirby pitched seven innings, nine Mariners benchers had five hits in 11 innings. Astros stars Alvarez and Jose Altuve were 0-for-15 in the game, while Altuve was 0-for-16 in the series.

A total of 18 pitchers pitched 498 pitches in the game.

The two teams combined for 42 strikeouts before Oscar Gonzalez’s homer sent Cleveland to the ALDS, breaking last week’s set by the Guardians and Rays in their AL wild-card matchup A postseason record of 39 times, the game went scoreless in 15 innings.

Altuve added Xander Bogaerts in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series against the Dodgers as the only player to go 8-0 or worse in the playoffs. But the rest of Houston has survived, none more so than the young shortstop who took on a major role after Carlos Correa left in free agency.

Pena’s homer was his only one in eight at-bats. But it was his contributions in the first two games that helped Houston lead Seattle 2-0 in the series.

For Mariners fans, watching the play was a harrowing emotional and nerve wracking for most of the 6 hours and 22 minutes.

Just hours before the first pitch, the team snaked its way outside the entrance. Half of the stadium was full 90 minutes before Seattle’s game and all seats were taken when Felix Hernandez stepped out of midfield and threw a Ritual first ball.

The energy and noise that accompanies two decades of anticipation starts out as pure excitement, but it gets more and more intense as time goes on on the scoreboard. By the time the 14th inning was nearly five hours into the game, those fans were exhausted and ready to close.

It didn’t show up until four innings, a disappointing conclusion after two decades of waiting.

The Associated Press and ESPN Statistics & Information contributed to this report.

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