Astros dig out of 3-0 ALCS hole against Rays to force decisive Game 7

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Will this MLB postseason and World Series champ come with an asterisk?

Sports Pulse: The MLB postseason has two losing teams in it. There was only a 60-game regular season. Does the 2020 World Series champion require an asterisk? Our MLB experts debate.

SAN DIEGO -- They are the mosquitoes at the lake, the ants ruining the weekend picnic.

They are the Houston Astros.

And they refuse to go away.

The Astros, on the verge of history, have turned the Tampa Bay Rays’ world completely upside down, winning for the third consecutive game Friday, 7-4, and sending the American League Championship Series to seven games.

The Astros have become only the second team in baseball history to be down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series and force a Game 7, joining the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

It was Alex Bregman’s idea two nights ago to show the ESPN documentary, Four Days in October, with the Red Sox down 3-0 to the New York Yankees in the ALCS and Kevin Millar telling reporters: “I’ll tell you this, don’t let us win today.’’

The Red Sox won. Won again. And again. And again. And they didn’t lose another game the rest of the season, sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals for the World Series championship.

“I was sitting down watching it with him,’’ Astros shortstop Carlos Correa said. “It was a super-inspiring video. It’s the only team that’s been able to do that.’’

Well, here are the Astros, trying to carve out their own piece of history, trying to prove to the world that they don’t need any trash cans, secret video, or anything else to win a World Series.

They’re winning the clean, old-fashioned way.

“We’re pretty happy in there right now, but we’re not finished,” Astros closer Ryan Pressly said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do. This team is pretty resilient, and we will  show that day in and day out.

“You push our backs against the wall, and we’re going to fight you.”

Oh, man, have they ever.

It was 72 hours ago that the Astros were screaming into the night, throwing down their helmets, and cursing their fate as the Rays made spectacular defensive play after play.

Now, it’s the Rays becoming unglued, with catcher Mike Zunino snapping his bat in two over his legs after striking out against Framber Valdez in the fifth inning, and then Yandy Diaz screaming at Valdez after walking in the sixth inning, creating a skirmish.

Baker, who has made all of the right moves in their series, left Valdez in the game, watched Brandon Lowe hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Jose Altuve, who flipped to Correa for the inning-ending double play. Valdez was brilliant in his start, yielding just three hits and one run in six innings, striking out nine.

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“This is a special team, never count us out,’’ said Astros DH Michael Brantley, who had two hits and reached base three times. “We were not happy when were down 3-0, I’ll tell you that. But we knew we had won four in a row before. We were going to go down swinging.’’

With the series tied at 3-apiece, there’s no question that the momentum is all Astros, with the Rays left trying to explain what has happened.

The Astros may be wondering why everyone gave up on them, convinced they were done for the winter, limping into the playoffs with a 29-31 record, and heavy underdogs to even advance past the Minnesota Twins in the wild-card round.

They stunned the Oakland A’s in the AL Division Series.

And now are on the cusp of shocking the baseball world.

“We’re one step closer,’’ Baker said, “to climbing up that mountain and getting to the top.’’

Follow Nightengale on Twitter:@Bnightengale

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