The Houston Astros looked like a team on a mission before losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 7 of the ALCS on Saturday. But right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. says vengeance didn't fuel the club's deep playoff run.
"We weren't on a revenge tour," McCullers said postgame, according to Brian McTaggart of MLB.com. "That's not what this was. This was a bunch of guys coming together and just wanting to play damn good baseball, and wanted to go out and win another World Series."
"We fell short of our goal, but a lot of growth, a lot of impressive members on this team stepped up," he added.
Astros manager Dusty Baker, who took over for AJ Hinch during the offseason after the fallout of the electronic sign-stealing scandal, said his players were able to block out a lot of criticism and adversity to advance so far in the playoffs.
"The legacy of this group is that these guys are ballplayers. And these guys are men," Baker said, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports. "They been through a whole bunch other than (that) on the ball field. 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."
Houston, which became only the second team in MLB history to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0, lost reigning AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander to Tommy John surgery and dominant right-hander Gerrit Cole during free agency prior to the 2020 campaign.
The Astros, who posted a regular-season record below .500, responded in the postseason by knocking off the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics, both division winners.
"The Astros stayed in their dugout," third baseman Alex Bregman said when asked if he had a message for the baseball world. "And we stuck together."