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Jeremy Pena hits walk-off homer in 10th to lift Astros past Jays

Apr 24, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena (3) reacts after hitting a walk-off home run during the tenth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena crushed a two-run, walk-off home run to straightaway center field in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Houston Astros averted a series sweep with an 8-7 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

Pena drilled a 96.6 mph fastball from Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano (0-1), who had converted 31 consecutive saves and led the majors with eight this season. Pena drove home Kyle Tucker, the automatic runner, with his third home run this season to counter the run-scoring double Lourdes Gurriel Jr. stroked in the top of the 10th that gave the Blue Jays a 7-6 lead.

Gurriel drove home Bo Bichette, the automatic runner, with one out in the 10th inning. He produced a pair of extra-base hits and two RBIs.

Houston received production from the bottom third of their batting order. Aledmys Diaz (walk) and Pena (error) reached and scored in the Astros’ two-run second inning and Diaz produced an RBI single that scored Yuli Gurriel and tied the game at 6-6 in the seventh.

Astros starter Luis Garcia was exceptional early, facing the minimum through three innings before the Blue Jays started to apply pressure on him the second time through the order.

George Springer keyed the shift in momentum with a leadoff double in the fourth and scored two batters later on a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. sacrifice fly, sliding under the tag of Astros catcher Martin Maldonado after the throw from right fielder Tucker took Maldonado up the third-base line.

Toronto halved the two-run deficit when Springer scored, but trailed 4-1 entering the fifth after Astros left fielder Michael Brantley cranked a two-out, two-run homer to right off Toronto left-hander Yusei Kikuchi, punishing Kikuchi for issuing a walk to the nine-hole hitter Maldonado.

But Lourdes Gurriel Jr. got one of those runs back for the Blue Jays with his first-pitch home run leading off the fifth, his first of the year. Toronto struck an even bigger blow with two outs in the sixth when catcher Zack Collins bashed a 3-0 fastball from Garcia into the right-field seats, driving in Springer and Guerrero and erasing what was a 5-2 deficit. It was Collins’ third home run.

Blake Taylor (1-1) earned the win on just three pitches and one out in the 10th. Garcia allowed five runs on five hits in six innings, striking out six. Kikuchi lasted 3 2/3 innings for Toronto and allowed four runs (two earned) on three hits, with five walks and four strikeouts.

–Field Level Media