Astros overcome adversity to come 1 win shy of World Series

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Houston Astros manager Dusty Baker Jr. walks out to the infield for the national anthem before Game 7 of a baseball American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

HOUSTON – The Houston Astros overcame injuries to several top stars and dealt with the fallout from their sign-stealing scandal to come a win shy of reaching the World Series for the third time in four seasons.

Now they’ll deal with an uncertain future, with Justin Verlander out all next season and George Springer and other key starters set to become free agents.

The Astros fell into an 0-3 hole in the AL Championship Series before beating the Tampa Bay Rays in three straight games to force a Game 7. But their powerful offense was stifled by former Astros pitcher Charlie Morton in a 4-2 loss, and the Astros are heading home instead of to their second straight World Series.

“It’s frustrating, but these guys fought,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They fought to the very end ... this team is a bunch of fighters with a tremendous amount of perseverance and fortitude. One thing is for sure. We’ll be back in this position next year.”

That’s a nice sentiment from the 71-year-old Baker, who was hired to help this team regain credibility after its sign-stealing scam cost manger AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow their jobs and made the Astros the most reviled team in baseball. But it will be a tall task for the Astros, who lost the 2019 World Series to Washington in seven games, to remain among the league’s elite with all the upheaval they’re facing this offseason.

Verlander, who pitched just one game this season, won’t play in 2020 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and Houston’s entire starting outfield could be gone with Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick joining Springer as free agents.

“Some guys that we love really much, and we’ve been playing with forever hopefully they come back, but if they don’t, we’re going to miss them forever,” shortstop Carlos Correa said.

For Springer, it was too early to ponder his future just after the loss.