The Astros couldn't pull it off

Exciting playoff run by Astros ends with ALCS Game 7 loss to Rays

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Against all odds, first just to make it to this series having reached the playoffs with a losing record and being underdogs along the way, then going down 3-0 to the Rays in the series itself, the Houston Astros found themselves in a Game 7 trying to make history. A loss and their season would come to an abrupt end. A win and they'd advance to their third World Series in four seasons and become just the second team in MLB history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

Unfortunately for Houston, Tampa Bay would play their best game over the last four, holding Houston's offense at bay while taking advantage of the Astros' pitching mistakes. The Rays advance to the World Series to face the winner between the Dodgers and Braves in the NLCS. Here is how Game 7 unfolded:

Final Score: Rays 4, Astros 2.

Series: TB wins 4-3.

Winning Pitcher: Charlie Morton.

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr.

Rays strike first and send McCullers Jr. out early

It was Tampa Bay who looked focused and ready to start the game. While Charlie Morton made quick work of Houston's lineup in his first two innings, Lance McCullers Jr. was getting strikeouts but allowed two hits, both home runs, one a two-run shot by Randy Arozarena in the first, then a solo homer by Mike Zunino in the second, putting the Astros in an early 3-0 hole.

McCullers Jr. would refocus, but only enough to get two outs into the fourth inning before Dusty Baker would make the early call to his bullpen to bring in Brooks Raley to finish the inning. Jose Urquidy was next, working around a walk for a scoreless fifth to start his relief appearance.

Houston continues to hunt their first run

Meanwhile, Charlie Morton was dominating the Astros. He allowed just one hit and baserunner in the first five, a first-inning single by Michael Brantley. Houston would get their first baserunner since that hit in the first, a one-out walk by Martin Maldonado in the top of the sixth. He would get forced out at second on a groundball by George Springer, but Springer would move to third on an infield single, putting the tying run at the plate and prompting Kevin Cash to dip into his bullpen. The move would work, as Houston would strand both runners and keep it a 3-0 Tampa Bay lead.

Urquidy remained in the game for the bottom of the sixth, but a leadoff single would end up scoring after a walk and two sac flies to extend the Rays' lead to 4-0. The Astros tried to get something going in the top of the seventh, getting a one-out single by Alex Bregman followed by a single by Kyle Tucker to move him to third. They would waste the scoring opportunity, with Yuli Gurriel's dreadful postseason continuing by grounding into an inning-ending double play.

Astros unable to complete the historic comeback

Blake Taylor would be next out of Houston's bullpen and tossed a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. In the top of the eighth, the Astros would load the bases with two outs on a single and two walks, bringing Carlos Correa to the plate. He would get Houston on the board, getting a two-RBI single to cut the lead in half at 4-2. That's as close as the Astros would get, with Alex Bregman striking out to end the inning to strand the tying runs on base, then Houston coming up empty in the ninth.

Up Next: Houston's season is over, and they will now enter the offseason and the process of trying to re-sign existing players, if possible or picking up new ones. The Rays will travel to Arlington, home of Globe Life Field, where the World Series is being played. Game 1 is scheduled for Tuesday at 7:09 PM Central, pitching matchups TBD.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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