Culture / Sporting Life

Carlos Correa Interviewing Jeremy Peña On TV Is a Win For the Astros Rookie — Yordan Alvarez’s Sidekicks Are Raking Too

Peña Is Closer to Derek Jeter in Temperament Than Correa, But He Already Fits Perfectly With a Team That Just Gets It Done In October

BY // 10.13.22

When it’s over, after Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais finally rightly starts treating Yordan Alvarez like Barry Bonds, after Minute Maid Park explodes in one more torrent of orange-towel-waving joy, Houston Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña finds himself being interviewed on live TV. By Carlos Correa.

It’s something of a double take moment. And a much sweeter one than all those sports TV coverage conspiracy theorists want to believe. For there is a genuine bond and appreciation between Correa and the rookie’s who has replaced him — or at least filled his old shortstop position on this seemingly unstoppable Astros’ winning train.

“That was pretty cool,” Peña says of his Correa TBS moment after Houston’s 4-2 win over the Yordan-shaken Mariners in Game 2. “That was pretty cool. You know when he introduced himself, ‘Hey Jeremy, it’s Carlos Correa,’ that was cool.”

You could almost read it as another passing of the torch moment. But in truth, Jeremy Peña earned the respect and belief of his teammates, guys who absolutely loved Carlos Correa and still do, long ago. No one in this Astros clubhouse is wondering if Peña is up to challenge and the supersized pressure of the playoffs.

The three big hits and thee runs scored in his first two playoff games are just confirmation of what the veteran Astros already know about Peña. The moment is not going to be too big for him.

“He’s been doing the same thing he’s been doing the whole year,” Kyle Tucker tells PaperCity when I ask him about Peña. “He’s been playing defense well. Putting good at-bats together.

“We’re happy with how he’s been playing all year and he’s continuing to do that.”

Without seemingly being fazed in the slightest. Carlos Correa excelled in big look-at-me moments, pointing to his wrist to signify it’s his time after monster playoff home runs, upping the entertainment factor during games. And often after in his never-dull postgame interviews.

Peña’s work has been a little more quiet so far. But equally crucial to the Astros. Moved into the No. 2 hole, the rookie keeps getting on base before Yordan Alvarez bats in big moments, keeps passing the baton to the most destructive hitter in baseball not named Aaron Judge. Peña does it by keeping the Astros alive with two outs in the ninth inning against the Mariners closer in that wild Game 1 comeback win. And he does it against Seattle’s imported ace Luis Castillo, one of the best pitchers in all of baseball, in the sixth inning of Game 2 Thursday.

“When you have Yordan (hitting) behind you, they kind of attack you a little bit more,” Peña says. “I wouldn’t want to face that guy. So I just try to get on for him. And he’ll do the same.”

In many ways, Jeremy Peña is much more similar to former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter than Carlos Correa in temperament. Even-keeled, seemingly always in control. Peña is engaging in interviews, but he never says anything wild. He wouldn’t think of bragging about himself. He keeps his words pretty vanilla, preferring to show his emotions on the field.

Like when he’s flying around third in the bottom of the eighth inning in Game 2, sliding head first into home to score a vital insurance run on Alex Bregman’s own clutch hit. Peña pops up screaming then — and Jose Altuve is already waiting for him outside the Astros dugout, ready to give the never-blink rookie some more love.

Houston Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena brings elite speed too and he race in to score. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Pena brings elite speed too and he raced in to score. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

That’s the thing about these Astros. Even when Yordan is absolutely demolishing the Mariners, much like he absolutely demolished the Boston Red Sox in last year’s American League Championship Series, the big man has company. Dangerous company.

After turning a nasty 98 MPH Castillo sinker into a soaring home run over the Crawford Boxes, Alvarez sits back at his locker postgame with one socked foot elevated on a big cardboard box and scrolls through this smartphone. Alvarez certainly deserves the break, having carried the Astros again. This time from down 2-1 with Castillo seemingly gaining strength to up 3-2 in one swing.

“Facing one of the best pitchers in the world, and he was able to square up a tough pitch,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman marvels of Alvarez. “It was probably a ball off the plate and he was able to square it up and give us the lead.

“Can’t say enough about him. He’s so clutch.”

Bregman’s been pretty clutch himself in helping push the Astros to this 2-0 lead in the best-of-five divisional series. He hit the two run homer that kept Houston in range for that Game 1 Yordan walkoff. And when Mariners manager Scott Servais finally (finally) intentionally walks Alvarez in the bottom of the eight inning of Game 2, Bregman laces the next pitch into right to bring Jeremy Peña flying home.

Bregman is raking like it’s the 2017 playoffs all over again. Peña is coming through when it matters most. Jose Altuve is pulling off two jaw-dropping defensive plays — and throws from deep behind second base.

“People forget he’s a Gold Glover man,” Peña says of Altuve. “That man. He’s great at second base. And today he showed it.”

Yes, Yordan’s bat may be doing the heaviest lifting, but he’s certainly not alone. Tucker hits the first home run against Castillo, keeps his own streak of impressive defensive plays near the right field wall going.

This stuff is contagious.

In fact, Alvarez even races over in left field to snare a speeding flare that looks like it could be trouble, hustling to join the Astros’ defensive playmaking parade. There are no selfish guys on this Astros team, there really haven’t been any in major roles during this whole run. Everyone in this clubhouse wants to contribute in as many different ways as they can.

“We’ve been working on this for the last two years,” Alvarez says of his outfield defense. “And I’ve got the opportunity thankfully this year to play out there. I think I’ve shown that I can play out there.

“And because of that I think I’ve earned the trust of our manager.”

Scott Servais, Yordan Alvarez and Jeremy Peña Moments

People who play Russian roulette are seemingly less self destructive than Scott Servais. For the second straight game, the Mariners manager allowed his pitcher to go right at Yordan Alvarez with a runner on base and the game on the line. And for the second straight game, Alvarez made Servais — and all of Seattle — pay.

Alvarez sent the second pitch he saw (again) soaring high over the Crawford Boxes in left field this time, turning a 2-1 Mariners lead into a 3-2 Astros advantage. With one mighty swing. Again.

There’s deja vu — and then there’s seemingly slamming yourself right in the face with a baseball bat. And people around here used to think Bill O’Brien’s in-game strategy was suspect?

The entire heartbroken city of Seattle would like to have a word with you.

In Game 1, the Astros roar back to beat the Mariners in a wild, woozy 8-7 offensive slugfest of a game. In Game 2, the Astros pull out another close win in a tense game of pitching where every hit seems like it could be monumental.

What’s left for Julio Rodriguez and Co. to turn to? The Astros are showing they can beat the Mariners any which way they want to play.

Luis Castillo, the true ace the Mariners gave up a ton of high-level prospects to get, throws 76 pitches that clock 96 MPH or higher on the radar guns against the Astros. And he still can’t beat the American League’s reigning bully.

Seattle will still gets its first home playoff game in 21 years on Saturday afternoon. But the Mariners and their fans have to be wondering if that will be it with the Astros up 2-0 in the division series for the sixth straight year, one win from advancing to another ALCS.

Houston Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña had a big hit to give Yordan Alvarez the chance to win it. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña had a big hit to give Yordan Alvarez the chance to win it. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Carlos Correa is turning to free agency once again, after understandably taking the $35 million the Minnesota Twins offered him for this season. The decision to grab the chance for generational wealth is something no one should question or debate the merits of. Correa’s former Astros teammates certainly aren’t.

But there Correa is on an October night, sitting in a TV studio, interviewing Jeremy Peña for TBS. You get the feeling that Correa wants to tell Peña to treasure the moment. Another big Astros moment. Correa knows how precious they are.

Even if this rookie’s just getting started.

Part of the Special Series:

PaperCity - Astros Playoffs