Dodgers are facing a Texas-sized depression after Game 3 loss to Astros

Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke previews Game 4 of the World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros.

This is one bad hangover.

Two days after one of the most devastating losses in franchise history, the flattened Dodgers stayed down, stared up, and watched the Houston Astros continue to swagger their way through this World Series.


Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, it became Texas-sized bad, the Dodgers following their Game 2 collapse with a Game 3 meltdown Friday night in a 5-3 loss at Minute Maid Park that took the locals back to their dark side.

Remember that team that went 52-9 at one point this summer? Well, these were the guys that went 1-16.

Remember the team that rode Clayton Kershaw to a Series opening win? That team is now trailing two games to one and must rely on postseason newbie Alex Wood to pull them out of the hole against Houston's Charlie Morton in Game 3 Saturday night here.

"The Dodgers have a lot left in the tank, this series is far from over, we're going to come back from this,'' said Enrique Hernandez afterward in a second consecutive quiet clubhouse.

On Friday night, this was awfully ugly.

This was starting pitcher Yu Darvish never getting comfortable, never acting engaged and, frankly, barely even showing up.

This was the defense recording a new statistic that could be called a triple-bobble — they committed one throwing error, one fielding error and blew one big throw.

This was an offense that collected only four hits while botching it badly on the bases.

"If we play normal Dodger baseball, we win that game,'' said Cody Bellinger, who struck out four times and still doesn't have a hit in this series. "It was maybe one of the not-great fundamental games that we played.''

For the Astros, the win wasn't all that great either, their victory marred by a racial insult delivered by one of their stars.

After starting the surge against Darvish with a second-inning leadoff homer, the Cuban-born Yuli Gurriel sat in the dugout and openly mocked the Japanese Darvish, lifting the corners of his eyes and appearing to mouth the Spanish word "Chinito'' which, translated, means "little Chinese boy.''

Gurriel later apologized, and Darvish said he wasn't angry, but it doesn't matter. Regardless of Gurriel's motivation or Darvish's understanding, it came across as a racially offensive gesture and baseball needs to swiftly and strongly punish it. No institution in this country, particularly one that calls itself America's national pastime, can stand idle while one of its members so openly mocks another for his heritage.

Gurriel should be suspended immediately, and there is recent precedent for such action. Earlier this season, Oakland's Matt Joyce was suspended for two games for shouting an anti-gay slur at a fan in Anaheim, while Toronto's Kevin Pillar was also suspended for an anti-gay slur directed toward Braves pitcher Jason Motte.

Said Gurriel: "In no moment did I intend to make an offensive gesture toward him. If he was offended, I ask for his forgiveness. That wasn't my intention.''


Said Darvish: "I saw it but, for me, it personally doesn't bother me. But I'm sure the Astros have Asian fans and there are a lot of Asian people all over the world and to those people, from a humanistic perspective and as a baseball organization, I thought the Astros image might suffer as as result.''

Rob Manfred, baseball commissioner, is scheduled to meet with Gurriel on Saturday and could decide on possible discipline then. Here's hoping he does the right thing and benches Gurriel immediately.

Meanwhile, the Dodger have to figure out how to stop rolling out these late-August messes in the middle of baseball's biggest October stage. On Friday night it wasn't supposed to be like this. Who could have thought it would happen like this? In the wake of their late-inning collapse in a series-tying Game 2 on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, it was presumed the resilient Dodgers would quickly recover.

They didn't. They stayed flattened. It started with Darvish, who took the mound with a 2-0 record and 1.59 ERA in this postseason. But a day earlier, he gave a press conference during which he seemed uncomfortable and uncertain.

Those who thought the moment might be too big for him were right. He allowed a double to George Springer on his fifth pitch of the game and never stopped reeling, collapsing in a flurry of Astros line drives in the second .

By the time Darvish was mercifully removed, he had allowed four runs and six hits in less than two full innings while inducing just one swing-and-miss amid his 49 pitches. The Astros batted .600 against him. It was the shortest outing of his five-year career.

Darvish will be seeking as much as $175 million this winter in free agency. Here's guessing the Dodgers could have trouble connecting those numbers with the ones he produced Friday.

The four runs were all the Astros would need because the Dodgers could never find their legs. Or their bats. Or their arms.

The offense rebounded after the Astros' early fireworks by loading the bases with three consecutive walks to open the third inning. But on the third pitch from reeling Lance McCullers Jr., Corey Seager hit into a double-play grounder.

Then, an inning later, Yasiel Puig should have been standing safely on second base after hitting a line drive into the corner beyond third base. But he inexplicably stopped running after crossing first, then tried to recover by sprinting to second, but he was thrown out.

Puig was also involved in the Dodgers' run-producing fielding blunder, as his throw to the plate after a throwing error by pitcher Tony Watson was just off target, allowing Josh Reddick to score from first on the play.

On this night, that was just one of the many misses by the Dodgers, who need to have their memories erased. Their Game 2 collapse was a long time ago. They are facing a must-win Game 4. They need to get up and moving. They need to do it now.

A wild game sees eight home runs hit as the lead bounced back and forth. After an off day Thursday, the Series will resume Friday in Houston. First pitch is 5:08 PT. Yu Darvish vs. Lance McCullers Jr.

Get more of Bill Plaschke's work and follow him on Twitter @BillPlaschke