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Astros hold heads high after ALDS exit

Hinch, players proud to bring postseason back to Houston
MLB.com @JaneMLB

KANSAS CITY -- Disappointment filled the Astros' clubhouse following a season-ending 7-2 loss to the Royals in Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Wednesday, but pride remained.

Just two years after stumbling to the tune of 111 losses in its first season as an AL club, Houston took Kansas City, the defending AL champs, to the brink of elimination, following a second-place finish in the AL West with an 86-76 record.

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KANSAS CITY -- Disappointment filled the Astros' clubhouse following a season-ending 7-2 loss to the Royals in Game 5 of the American League Division Series on Wednesday, but pride remained.

Just two years after stumbling to the tune of 111 losses in its first season as an AL club, Houston took Kansas City, the defending AL champs, to the brink of elimination, following a second-place finish in the AL West with an 86-76 record.

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The Astros would enjoy three more wins, including an AL Wild Card Game victory over the Yankees on Oct. 6, before walking off the field for the final time Wednesday to a deafening Kauffman Stadium crowd.

:: ALDS: Astros vs. Royals -- Results ::

"There's not a man in that room that wanted the season to end," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch, facing the end of his first year at the helm. "There are going to be 29 teams that go through what we're going through today. There's going to be one champion. So, it hurts. It hurts to know that we put everything that we could into this season and it ended abruptly. Seasons like this end really quickly, and you're never ready for it. It never feels good.

"But as I told our team, I'm really proud of everything we did. I'm proud of their effort, I'm proud of their character, I'm proud how we handled adversity. Everything about this team, I'm proud of. [I'm] proud to be their manager."

Similar sentiments rang through Hinch's clubhouse, one that came together to bring postseason ball back to Houston for the first time since 2005. The Astros carried a 20-game winner in Dallas Keuchel and 11 hitters who totaled double-digit home runs as part of an offense that finished the regular season with the second-best run differential in the AL, at plus-111.

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Houston finished with a record of .500 or better in each of the first five months of the season for the first time since 2001, and the Astros spent all but 35 days in first place, when most pundits predicted them to be in last.

"None of us are going to walk out of this clubhouse with our heads hanging," starter Collin McHugh said. "We know what we accomplished this year. We know what we did, as far as record goes, as far as bringing baseball back to a phenomenal city, a city that's been really, really good to me and my family. To be able to give something back to the fans who have stuck with us has been really special for us, and we look forward to hopefully a lot more years of a lot more really good baseball."

Astros fans excited for franchise's future

A large core of young talent -- headlined by Carlos Correa and George Springer -- will be intact for years to come, igniting optimism even on a day such as this.

"Starting from the top, those guys had a great idea of what they were trying to do and what they were trying to create, and I think they did a great job as far as putting a great group together with good chemistry," outfielder Colby Rasmus said. "We fell a little short, and that's disappointing, but I don't see nothing to hang our heads on. We played good baseball."

"I've never actually been on a team that came to the park every day thinking we were going to get a win," reliever Tony Sipp said. "Most of the teams I've been on, it's been about having enough to suffice for the season to please the fans. This team here, we had the group. We have the group that could go deep and win it all, and I think everyone believes that."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Houston Astros, Collin McHugh, Colby Rasmus, Tony Sipp