On the ground floor of
The images flickered across the screen in the moments immediately after a 5-1 defeat ended the
Inside the press room, an
"It hurts," Roberts said. "And it's supposed to hurt."
The end came on the first day of November, deeper than any Dodgers team had traveled in a generation. During the long months before the next spring dawns, they will ruminate over how close they came, and how far they remained. The decision to trust Darvish in Game 7, a choice made based on reason and probability, backfired in stunning, season-ending fashion. A relentless force for so long, the lineup picked an inopportune evening to go one for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Inside the clubhouse, the players said their goodbyes and embraced each other.
"When you think about how close we were," Kershaw said, "that makes it too hard to think about."
The proximity only amplifies the sting. These Dodgers won 104 games, the most since the franchise left Brooklyn. They captured a fifth consecutive division title. But Dodger Stadium does not reward banners for regular-season accomplishments. For this organization, the standard is higher.
This group reached this stage as a unit. And they fell as a unit. Darvish wore the weight of the defeat, giving up five runs and failing to finish the second inning. The lineup could not lift him up.
Yet as the day began, Roberts hoped to hand the baseball to Jansen and Kershaw for the final nine outs. Darvish scuttled that plan.
Darvish made two starts in this series. He collected 10 outs total, five in each, melting down in Game 3 and again Wednesday. The first combustion exhausted the bullpen and contributed to another defeat two days later. The second ended the season. "Everyone has really awful days," Darvish said.
The failure by Darvish was only magnified by the pitchers who followed him onto the mound. Kershaw strung together four innings of scoreless relief to keep the Dodgers within sight of their guests. Roberts downplayed the suggestion that either Kershaw or
"You don't know what you're going to get from either of those two guys," Roberts said. "I think it's unfair to Yu. There is always going to be second-guessing. We felt good with Yu starting the game."
The feeling did not last long. Springer haunted the Dodgers during the first six games of this series. He had batted .375 and homered four times, including crushing blows in Game 2 and Game 5. He opened the finale by ripping a double into left field. It was an inauspicious start. What followed was worse.
Astros third baseman Alex Bregman hit a grounder to the right side of the infield. Cody Bellinger swept into the hole to make the play. He spun so he could feed Darvish at first base. The throw went behind the pitcher, allowing Springer to score and Bregman to reach second base. After Bregman stole third, he scored on a groundout by
The bottom fell out beneath Darvish in the second. His unraveling began by walking catcher
The lineup turned over and there stood Springer. In the bullpen was
"I understand that it's Game 7," Roberts said. "But I just felt his stuff was good. Anything other than a homer would have been considerably better."
Darvish fell behind in the count to Springer. He hung a 3-1 slider, but Springer missed it. There was no doubt about the next pitch, a 96-mph fastball that Springer blasted into the left-center pavilion. The Astros erupted in their dugout, spilling bodies and sunflower seeds onto the dirt beyond the bench.
Darvish strode through the boos of Dodgers fans into the dugout. He descended a set of steps to the clubhouse and out of sight.
If the performance by Darvish caused heartache, the at-bats by the Dodgers caused heartburn. Astros starter McCullers lacked command and set a World Series record by hitting four batters. He did not permit a run.
The sequences defined aggravation.
Joc Pederson grounded out with the bases loaded in the first. With two on and one out in the second,
Another opportunity evaded their grasp in the fifth. Peacock walked Seager. Turner singled. The pace of the game slowed to a crawl as Astros manager A.J. Hinch used left-handed reliever
With two on in the sixth, Andre Ethier hopped off the bench. In what was probably his final at-bat as a Dodger, he threaded an RBI single through the right side of the infield to make it 5-1. The ballpark came alive. It was false hope: Astros pitcher
The Dodgers did not challenge again. At 8:58 p.m., Seager hit a grounder to the right side. Altuve fielded it and made the throw to first base. Seager slipped through the throng of Astros back to his dugout, where several players watched the celebration from the railing.
They had come so close. They were still so far. The winter would not make it easier.
"It's going to take a while," Jansen said. "It breaks your heart."