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Sports activities Pulse: The. Rays are going to the Global Collection for the primary time since 2008

USA TODAY

SAN DIEGO — They had been taunted, cursed, and vilified in spring coaching.

They had been deliberately hit via pitches all through the common season, incited into brawls and skirmishes, and mocked via opposing groups.

But, it wasn’t till 8 months later, till the 9th inning of Sport 7 of the American League Championship Collection, on a impartial web site on Saturday night time, that they had been after all knocked out.

The Houston Astros, the workforce The usa cherished to hate, are not round, extinguished via the Tampa Bay Rays, Four-2, who’re going to the Global Collection.

“It sucks guy, it truly does,’’ mentioned shedding pitcher Lance McCullers, who began Sport 7. “It sucks as it simply looks like we had been proper there.’’

And, it stinks, the Astros mentioned quietly, realizing this may well be the top in their legacy in combination.

George Springer, who was once a part of the workforce that received two pennants and a Global Collection, turns into a loose agent. So does outfielders Josh Reddick and Michael Brantley. None are anticipated to go back.

“The ones are guys we like very a lot,’’ Astros shortstop Carlos Correa mentioned.  “Confidently, they’ll come again. If no longer, we’re going to leave out them. It’s going to be bizarre seeing them in a special uniform.’’

The Astros bench in dire straights within the 9th inning of Sport 7. (Photograph: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Sports activities)

The Astros, who changed into most effective the second one workforce in baseball historical past to drive a Sport 7 after trailing Three-Zero, are happy with what they achieved. They misplaced Cy Younger winner Justin Verlander to Tommy John elbow surgical procedure. Co-ace Gerrit Cole departed within the iciness for the New York Yankees. Their bullpen was once devastated via accidents. That they had 9 pitchers make their major-league debut. My goodness, there have been seven rookie pitchers on their ALCS roster, most effective 4 pitchers even seemed in ultimate 12 months’s Global Collection.

Nonetheless, they virtually reached the Global Collection, not able to unravel Rays starter Charlie Morton, their former teammate who received a Global Collection championship with them, with two in their greatest stars, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel, suffering on the fallacious time.

“I’m simply (expletive) proud this workforce, guy,’’ Correa mentioned. “It’s been a fantastic journey. I’ve by no means had extra amusing taking part in baseball than I did this 12 months with this crew of fellows.’’

What they’ll ceaselessly bear in mind about this season is they caught in combination, whilst the remainder of the sector attempted to drag them aside, infuriated over the 2017 dishonest scandal that was once uncovered ultimate iciness after MLB’s investigation.

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It certainly helped, Astros manager Dusty Baker said, that there were no fans in the stands to taunt them. They qualified for the playoffs with a losing record (29-31) only because of the expanded format. Still, they played fair and square, and nearly made a return trip to baseball’s biggest stage.

“We weren’t on a revenge tour,’’ McCullers said. “That’s not what this was. This was a bunch of guys coming together and wanting to play damn good baseball and go and win another World Series.

“We fell short of our goals, but it was impressive the way this team stepped up. We showed the way we fought together.’’

The Astros know they’ll be back. They have too much talent to go away. Maybe with enough time passed, people will let it go, and the hatred will stop.

“I just hope that people don’t assume the worst of everyone,’’ Morton said. “They did a heck of a job this year. I didn’t pay too much attention to what they were doing in regular season, but to see them in that Twins’ series, to see that in the A’s series and then here, they’re tough.

“For me, they showed a lot this postseason.’’

The loss will sting all winter, Baker says, who was just one victory short of managing in the World Series for the first time since 2002. But he’ll be back. So will his team.

“A lot of people didn’t have us even making the playoffs,’’ Baker said. “Most people didn’t have us beating Minnesota. Nobody had us beating Oakland. And then nobody had us beating the Rays when we were down 3 to nothing.

“The legacy of this group is that these guys are ballplayers. And these guys are men. They been through a whole bunch other than on the ballfield. These guys can forget whatever problems they had that were out there, and come together as a group.

“One thing is for sure. We’ll be back in this position again next year.’’

The Astros fell short of reaching the World Series for the fourth time in five years, but perhaps they have never been more proud of this group, refusing to succumb to the hatred.

“You want to go to the World Series, but at the same time, this group of guys are so special,’’ Correa said, “the way we battled back from adversity. I’m going home remembering this team forever. I’m very proud of what we accomplished.

“We did a good job on focusing what we can control, and that was showing up, playing hard, and fighting to the end.’’

Was there a message the Astros wanted to leave for everyone to digest?

“The Astros stayed in their dugout,’’ third baseman Alex Bregman said. “And we stuck together.’’

Follow Nightengale on Twitter:@Bnightengale

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