Springer, Valdéz help Astros top Rays 7-4, force ALCS Game 7

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Houston Astros Carlos Correa runs to second after hitting a double against the Tampa Bay Rays during the seventh inning in Game 6 of a baseball American League Championship Series, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

SAN DIEGO – The blowback from a sign-stealing scandal three years ago and a losing record during the pandemic-shortened regular season don't mean a thing to Dusty Baker and the Houston Astros.

Like them or loathe them, the Astros are on the cusp of a third World Series in four seasons and joining the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only teams to rally from a 3-0 deficit to win a seven-game series.

George Springer and José Altuve delivered big hits, Framber Valdéz pitched six brilliant innings and the Astros beat the Tampa Bay Rays for the third straight time, 7-4 Friday to force a deciding Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

It's been a stunning turnaround in a series that had been going the Rays' way as they opened a 3-0 lead.

“We’re not through writing history,” Baker said. “We’re hoping we can have a happy ending to this historic season and historic year.

“This team’s battled back big time,” added Baker, hired to bring some stability to a team rocked by a sign-stealing scandal it used en route to the 2017 title that was uncovered last offseason. “You’ve got to love this team, or some people hate this team, but I mean you’ve at least got to respect this team, the way that they’ve worked."

Houston chased starter Blake Snell in the fifth before Springer hit a go-ahead, two-run single and scored on Altuve’s double. Carlos Correa, who hit a walkoff home run in Thursday night’s 4-3 win, added an RBI single.

“We're relentless and when we said we didn't want to go home, we really meant that,” Correa said. “We want to keep playing baseball and we don't want this to be the end of our season. We took care of these three games and now we've got to take one more. If we don't win that game, then it's all meant nothing. We've got to go out there tomorrow and get that win. It'll be great.”