There were changes, lots and lots of personnel changes. There was a record payroll. A new front office. A sharper focus on sabermetrics.
Yet in the end there was the same door slamming on their postseason dreams, with the Dodgers left to ponder missed opportunities and gift runs and what might have been.
For the third consecutive postseason, the Dodgers were turned away shy of the World Series, their latest effort falling short Thursday night in 3-2 loss to the Mets before a disappointed Dodger Stadium sellout crowd of 54,602.
The victory in Game 5 of the division series advanced the Mets to the National League Championship Series that now opens Saturday in New York against the Chicago Cubs.
The Dodgers thought they were on the way to hosting the Cubs when they jumped out to a 2-1 lead against Mets ace Jacob deGrom in the first inning, putting together four consecutive hits against a right-hander they had failed to score a run against in two previous starts.
But the Mets tied the score in the fourth when the Dodgers outsmarted themselves with a defensive shift to the right side. Daniel Murphy had singled, and when Zack Greinke walked Lucas Duda -- the only walk he allowed all night -- Murphy trotted to second, and seeing no one covering third, sprinted over to steal the extra base. Murphy then scored on a Travis d’Arnaud sacrifice fly to tie it 2-2.
Murphy won the game for the Mets in the sixth inning with a solo home run. It was his third home run of the series.
After starting so well against DeGrom, the Dodgers never could push across another run. They went two for four with runners in scoring position in the first, and hitless in their next nine attempts.
The Dodgers kept getting runners on base and leaving them there, with DeGrom regrouping and going six innings. On the 27th anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s legendary World Series home run, there would be no dramatic hit for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers led the National League in home runs in the regular season, but the Mets out-homered them seven to two in the best-of-five series.
The Dodgers started five new position players from the team they had a year ago, but the freshness to their lineup did not translate into new results. The Dodgers also lost in the division series last year and in the NLCS the year before, both times to the Cardinals.
Greinke pitched very well, but just not well enough. He gave up a run in the first when Curtis Granderson beat out an infield hit and Murphy doubled over the head of Joc Pederson in center.
The Dodgers came right back in the bottom of the first, singles by Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez putting runners on the corners. Justin Turner doubled in the tying run and Ethier blooped an RBI hit to put the Dodgers up, 2-1.
It was a lead that wouldn’t hold. Scoring opportunities went by the wayside, and the Dodgers were never able to put the Mets away. Catcher Yasmani Grandal, his sore shoulder clearly still bothering him, actually swung the bat only once in three plate appearances.
There was an ugly moment when Ethier screamed at Manager Don Mattingly in the dugout. There was Greinke walking off the mound in the seventh, likely for the last time as a Dodger, to a standing ovation. There was Turner finishing with a club record six doubles. There was Mets closer Jeurys Familia pitching a two-inning save for the Mets.
And for the Dodgers, there was an all too familiar ending.
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