The Houston Astros playoff run came to an end in Game Seven of the ALCS.
Hopes were high headed into the final game of the ALCS, but it was not meant to be for Houston. After coming back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the series and force a Game Seven, the Astros fell to the Rays 4-2 on Saturday, ending a playoff run that almost no one saw coming.
The Astros went only 29-31 in the regular season but made the playoffs anyway under the expanded format. They struggled in September, especially on offense, but somehow managed to find the magic once the postseason started. That magic took them to within a game of the World Series, but an old friend extinguished the team’s red-hot bats.
Charlie Morton took the ball for the Rays and was just plain filthy. He allowed only one hit through his first five innings and kept his pitch count pretty low as well. When the Astros managed a walk and a single against him in the sixth, manager Kevin Cash took him out after only 66 pitches, which actually was a welcome move for Houston fans. Morton was simply that good.
But the Astros offense couldn’t muster enough to make a difference. They had a good chance to score with runners at the corners and one out in the seventh, but Yuli Gurriel grounded into a double play. They pushed across two runs on a bases-loaded single by Carlos Correa with two outs in the eighth, but Alex Bregman struck out to end the threat.
Gurriel hit a much-needed single with one out in the ninth, but Josh Reddick struck out and Aledmys Diaz flied out to end the game. Unlike the previous losses in this series when the Astros frequently hit the ball hard, the team simply had little answer for the Rays pitching in this game. Morton’s dominance set the tone.
On the flip side, Lance McCullers was not nearly as sharp. He plunked the leadoff batter on his first pitch and then gave up a two-run homer to eventual ALCS MVP Randy Arozarena. He then hung a curveball to Mike Zunino in the second inning which was launched for a solo shot. The Rays pushed one more run across against Jose Urquidy in the sixth, and that was all they needed.
Is this the last we’ll see of George Springer, Michael Brantley and Reddick? Springer and Reddick both went 0-for-4, while Brantley was 1-for-3 with a walk. Reddick is almost certain to be elsewhere next year, but Astros fans will be waiting with bated breath to see if owner Jim Crane will open his pocketbook for Springer and/or Brantley in free agency.
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Bregman and Gurriel continued to struggle at the plate, so their seasons have mercifully finished. But I would expect them both to rebound next season. I still think Gurriel never got right with the hand injury he suffered in September, so an offseason to rest and recuperate may do him some good. An offseason of work will probably help Bregman as well.
What we do know is that there’s plenty to look forward to next year. The Astros will have Jose Altuve, Correa, Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, Gurriel and Martin Maldonado, with the possibility of a Springer or Brantley return. They’ll have McCullers, Zack Greinke, Framber Valdez, Jose Urquidy and Cristian Javier for the rotation, plus several impressive young arms in the bullpen. One or two more veteran relievers would make this a really scary team next year.
In the end, there’s not much to be said except I’m proud of this team. No one (myself included) expected them to get this far, and they showed a great deal of heart and resilience. Correa stepped up to become a bona fide leader on this team, and several inexperienced young pitchers made their mark and carved out roles for the future.
The moronic Astros haters will have fun with their asinine trash can jokes, but make no mistake — this team is going to be just fine and should be right back in the mix next year. Their championship window is not closed regardless of what happens this offseason. At the end of the day, I’m proud to be a fan.