It was disappointing and a bit surreal that such a magical season for the Dodgers ended so emptily. It was the same old, tired story. Starting pitcher derailed them. A potent lineup couldn’t muster up enough runs and ran out of magic. They were lifeless, torpid and a bit hopeless at an ancient Dodger Stadium in Game 7 of the World Series.

The continuous letdowns, painful losses, and the wielding of such unspeakable torture perpetually undermine hope for a Dodgers team that unremarkably falls short of an elusive championship. The hardest thing is that a storied franchise was just one win from its first championship since the 1988 World Series. This was a hard-fought, nutty series that came down to a seventh and deciding game against a potent Astros squad.

Another loss. Another nosedive. Another heartbreaker. Another strikeout. They had it all — a stellar ace, an untouchable but worn-down bullpen, timely clutch hitting, a formidable closer and adroit managing. The Dodgers were the best team in baseball, without a doubt, but the Astros were just the better team. Their hopes evaporated quickly. Doubt wandered into their minds promptly.

With their devastating 5-1 loss Wednesday night, the Dodgers, who won five consecutive National League West division titles, fell apart in two innings as the wheels came off the blue wagon. The Astros two first-inning runs came quickly on a double, a throwing error, a stolen base and a ground ball. In the second inning, Houston greatly benefited from three runs on a walk, a double, a groundout and a home run. Just like that, they had piled on five runs in two innings against Yu Darvish.

Are yuuuuuuuuu serious?! Yes. In the most vital game, the Astros were world serious about winning it on the road. And, certainly, a determined Houston club prepared for liftoff to secure its first-ever championship in franchise history as the Dodgers, who left an eerie Dodger Stadium crowd stunned, looked on bitterly from a somber dugout.

Then, as reality began to set in that it was over, the crowd went into silence, sensing the worst yet again. The damage decided the outcome of the series, when Darvish ruined the Dodgers’ unforgettable season. He was reckless, struggled to find his slider, and couldn’t locate any of his pitches. The kind of stuff he had on the mound was terrible and the game slipped away from Darvish.

It started with George Springer, the series MVP, ripping a double into the left field corner. That was followed up by Alex Bregman hitting a grounder to first that should have been an out, but Cody Bellinger’s wayward throw to Darvish sailed behind him, allowing Springer to score. Bregman was certainly on the run because of his aggression and smart baserunning, advancing to second on the error and stealing third before scoring on an RBI groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-0 Astros.

The choice to let Darvish remain in the game was bewildering. It was, however, the prelude to an apocalypse, when he blew an 0-and-2 count and walked Astros catcher Brian McCann on eight pitches. At that point, his manager should have pulled him out and gone with a reliever from the Dodgers bullpen, but he kept him out there. Darvish surrendered a double to right-center field by Marwin Gonzalez, and an out later, the starting pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. helped his own cause by hitting a chopper that past the mound to drive in McCann. That still wasn’t enough for Dave Roberts, who waited a batter late to take the ball from Darvish. The pitching change didn’t come until Darvish yielded a two-out, two-run homer to Springer that extended the Astros lead to 5-0.

This is a guy, after all, who was presumably a three-month rental in the Dodgers starting rotation. The trouble with the Japanese right-hander, though, is he was inconsistent and shaky in his starts. With a chance to bounce back from an abysmal Game 3 start, he didn’t  find consistency on the mound, allowing five runs in Game 7, four of which were earned. In the summer, minutes before the trade deadline, the Dodgers acquired Darvish from the Texas Rangers. The organization knew exactly what it was doing when it dumped him in L.A. Just about everyone wanted Kershaw to start Game 7. But Darvish, an attractive midseason acquisition, didn’t pitch like it. He was so horrendous, that he was removed and showered with boos as he walked to the dugout.

So much has been discussed and written about a team that vanishes year after year and inexplicably has yet to win a World Series. After a summer of hot streaks, the Dodgers’ bewitching year will be defined by epic failure. On some level, you have to suspect that it is essentially a season that gave way to a deep-rooted sense of pessimism. However, this team was a little better than past postseasons, a little more hopeful, but not stronger than Houston Strong. The lone run the Dodgers managed to eventually scratch out wasn’t enough to stage a late comeback as they’ve done so brilliantly all season long. In a time of desperation, they forced themselves to swing, lacked patience at the plate and stranded 10 men on base.

What in the name of Dodgers was going on with a title-worthy team that was built to end a drought? If there’s one word that sums up Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, it’s agony. It is in a time like this, in a game of this magnitude when the Dodgers fall short of triumph. It was a truly horrifying night filled with sorrow for a team that failed to meet lofty expectations. This wasn’t what the organization had hoped for, but nothing was promised — not even to a team that was historically the greatest ever. After so much joy, title-starved fans can’t bear the pain. After so much optimism, fans are in stunned disbelief.

It wasn’t long before the headaches returned. It wasn’t long before the anxiety lurked in quietness. It wasn’t long before the nausea occurred as the Dodgers were stopped short by the Astros. They’re asking what went wrong, how did this happen? Simply because the Dodgers couldn’t push through the exhaustion, fell into a hitting slump and the poor decision by Dave Roberts not to start Clayton Kershaw or Alex Wood they faltered in the final game of the baseball season. Folks in L.A. waited 29 years for a World Series game and this is what the fans get — a postseason appearance that has ended in defeat.

It was an enthralling, enjoyable and occasionally even a daunting dream filled with delight or hysteria that turned into a bad nightmare. This is not what the Dodgers are about and it is certainly not what L.A. sports is about.

This year was the Dodgers’ moment to finally win a championship that has long eluded them. They won a franchise-record 104 regular-season games. They swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in a quick three-game series and defeated the Chicago Cubs 4-1 in the championship series to breeze through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Most considered it a memorable season, one nobody will ever forget, but one that has gone to waste.

They were all so close that everybody in L.A. believed it was theirs to win, but the finality couldn’t have been more numbing.

Advertisements