• Brian L. Barefield

"Peña Power" Astros Rookie Hits Walk-Off Home Run To Defeat Toronto

Photo Credit-Houston Astros

For the last two games against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Houston Astros fans have waited for the home team to rally in the bottom of the last inning to win the game like they used to do in the past.

On Friday, Houston trailed Toronto 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning and had runners on first and third with one out. The following two batters struck out to end the game.

The next day, the Astros were again down by one run in the ninth inning to the Blue Jays 3-2, with the tying run on base and one out. An unassisted double play by first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. ended Houston’s comeback and extended their losing streak to four games.

So, it is safe to say that with the Astros trailing 7-6 in extra innings to the Blue Jays on Sunday that most fans were a little skeptical that they could rally back and get a victory. With Kyle Tucker standing on second base with one out, you could hear the moans and groans of the crowd still in attendance. They were still cheering, just not as loudly as they had been throughout the game.

As shortstop Jeremy Peña came to the plate for the fifth time in the game, you could see some fans looking to see who was on the deck behind him. The rookie was 0-for-14 at the plate and had never been put in a situation like the one he was facing in his early major league career.

Peña was also facing a pitcher in Blue Jays reliever Jordan Romano who closed the door in the first game with two strikeouts on his way to his franchise-record 31st consecutive save. So, to say that the odds were stacked against Peña is an understatement.

Then again, he knows a few things about having pressure put on him to replace a hometown hero in former shortstop Carlos Correa, who has proven that he was built for the moments Peña was facing over the last few years.

Photo Credit-Houston Astros

Romano threw Aledmys Díaz all sliders to strike him out for the first out of the extra inning. He started with that same pattern to Peña, but the pitch missed outside. The second pitch was a four-seam fastball that missed the plate even further than the first. After not getting the rookie to chase two outside pitches, the super-sharp closer threw another fastball low and inside, and Peña sent it 425-feet over the center-field wall to win the game 8-7.

Peña was asked about his approach at the plate going up against such a dominant pitcher in Romano.

“You want to go to the plate with a plan, he said. “He’s a hard thrower. You kind of sit (on) anything hard, and he threw me the fastball. I tried to put a good swing on it.”

The rookie also elaborated on his mindset as he rounded the bases, knowing what he had accomplished by hitting the first walk-off home run of his career.

“It was a blur,” Peña said with a slight smile. “I kind of ran the bases a little fast, but it was a great moment.”

The moment was incredible for a team that had struggled to get hits and score runs in their six-game homestand. Houston scored more runs (8) on Sunday than they did in their four-game losing streak (7).

Manager Dusty Baker was glad to see his rookie come up big in such a pressure-packed moment but was happy that his team was able to get the victory.

“That was a big game for us to win,” Baker said. “You never want to get swept, especially at home. We needed that bad to get off of the losing streak.”

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