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Astros rookie Jeremy Peña continues to rake in postseason, help tack on lead for Game 1 ALCS win

📸 Photo Credit: Bill Menzel/ Latino Sports

When a beloved and forceful leader says goodbye to an organization, questions arise: what will come of their absence? How will the team adapt to the loss of the pulse that magnified each moment? 

When former Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa left H-Town for the Twin Cities, that was the question that hovered over the Houston Astros when they reported to West Palm Beach, Fl. for spring training.  

It’s been eight months since pitchers and catchers reported, and it’s safe to say the Houston Astros have their answer.

Jeremy Joan Peña, a 25-year-old shortstop from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, has not only provided a youthful presence to a club that has been pulling the Astros into the American League Championship Series since 2017 but has brought the spark that has helped fuse the Astros success in 2022.

Peña put up Latino MVP Rookie of the Year in his first season in the major leagues after weaving a .253/.289/.426 slash line with 22 home runs, 63 RBI, and a 4.8 WAR. 

In Game 1 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, Peña capitalized on each moment presented to him and helped carry a team that needed the rookie — who has shown immense regular-season success — to step up. Peña went 3-for-4 Wednesday night with a solo home run, two doubles, and a run in his first taste of the championship series. The solo blast would be the last nail in the coffin for the Yankees’ pitching unit as they gave up four runs on three solo home runs and an RBI double. 

“He plays like a veteran, but he is a rookie,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said on his young shortstop. “I was a rookie. I was a lot sillier than he was at that time because a lot of rookies are kind of silly, and sometimes you feed off of that silliness, the older players do. You kind of need that. But he’s quiet, and he goes about his business, and he just comes to play.”

Peña has hit two home runs in four postseason games — the first coming as the lone run in the Astros and Seattle Mariners’ 18-inning marathon in Game 3 of the ALDS — with seven hits, 2 RBI, and a .350/.381/.800 slash line.

A collective offensive performance from lowkey talent hindered any defensive plans from opponents who intentionally walked Yordan Álvarez and have found José Altuve in a postseason pit as he goes hitless in the ’22 postseason (0-for-19 in four postseason games). 

From Martín Maldonado putting the Astros on the board in the bottom of the second inning to Yuli Gurriel and Chas McCormick with back-to-back dingers against Yankees reliever Clarke Schmidt to put the Astros ahead and Peña’s success at the plate, the Astros found a way to get the job done in Game 1. 

“They show up every single day. They put the work in. You gravitate towards that. You want to be a part of it. So you gravitate towards their work,” Peña said about his veteran teammates. “They’re hungry. They have been here for so many years, but they still act like it’s their first time. They’re still hungry in that sense. And we have a special team, and I think we’re going to have a special run.”

Game 2 of the ALCS will find two Dominican pitchers who have proven to carry their teams under the bright lights of October. The New York Yankees will entrust Sabana del la Mar native Luis Severino (7-3, 3.18 ERA, 112 strikeouts in the regular season) to toe the slab and hope to lead the team back to Yankee Stadium with the series even at one. While Framber Valdez (17-6, 2.82 ERA, 194 strikeouts in the regular season) — who is from the opposite coast from his pitching counterpart, the southern municipality of Palenque — will hope to lock down the Yankees offense and carry a 2-0 series lead as Game 3 is set to be played in The Bronx.

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