Before first pitch, Wednesday night had the makings of the perfect Dodger moment. After winning 104 of 162 regular season games, two playoff series over the Diamondbacks and Cubs, and playing to a tie in six incredible World Series games against the Astros, the Dodgers entered Game Seven with the perfect opportunity to snap a 29-year World Series drought. And then they didn’t.
Everything went wrong for the Boys in Blue from the very first at-bat. Soon-to-be World Series MVP George Springer led off the game by drilling a double into the left field corner, and then scored on the next pitch, as Dodgers rookie sensation Cody Bellinger committed an egregius error, throwing the ball wide of pitcher Yu Darvish as he covered first on an Alex Bregman ground ball. The Astros then tacked on another run on a lazy ground-ball RBI, quickly jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
After leaving Chris Taylor stranded after his leadoff double in the bottom of the first, the mistakes continued for the Dodgers. In the second, a leadoff walk was followed by a double by a struggling Marwin Gonzalez, and a run then scored on a groundout by Lance McCullers. With Darvish struggling, manager Dave Roberts had reliever Brandon Morrow warming up in the bullpen, but elected to let Darvish pitch to Springer again with one on and two outs.
Though Roberts was a manager that consistently pushed the right buttons this postseason, he finally made the wrong decision: Springer destroyed a line-drive home run into the left-field pavilion, his fifth homer of the series, giving Houston a 5-0 lead.
The Dodger Stadium crowd fell to a shocked hush. Suddenly, all 54,000 plus fans in attendance realized they likely wouldn’t be celebrating a title in a few hours time.
The team didn’t do much to change this feeling. While the bullpen pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings, led by superstars Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen, the offense sputtered and never broke through, only pushing across a single run.
The series ended anticlimactically on Corey Seager’s ground-out in the bottom of the ninth. The celebratory shouts of the Astros players could be heard throughout Chavez Ravine. It felt like they were crashing a funeral.
The silence was overwhelming. Somehow, it managed to encapsulate the massive disappointment felt by nearly everyone in the park.
This was supposed to be the Dodgers’ year. And so, as they stood on the top rail of the dugout watching the Astros celebrate, it didn’t feel real. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. They hadn’t imagined coming up one game short.
When Bellinger broke onto the scene and smashed a Dodger rookie record 39 home runs, everyone thought of a World Series. When the team won 43 of 50 games in July and August, the city of Los Angeles imagined a championship. When front office wizards Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi pulled off a trade deadline deal for Darvish, hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy seemed inevitable. And when they breezed through the Diamondbacks and Cubs, only losing one game, the team could taste how close they were to a title.
Yet, on Wednesday, none of this mattered. Bellinger struck out three times, went 0-4, and stranded six runners. Darvish couldn’t make it past the second inning for his second straight start. And the Dodgers offense appeared nothing like the same squad that rolled through the talented staffs of Chicago and Arizona. In a season where nearly everything went right, it suddenly all went terribly wrong. They went down quietly without much of a fight, and were left to watch the Astros celebrate on their field, and hoist the trophy that was supposed to be theirs.
As former MLB Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti once wrote, “It breaks your heart. [Baseball] is designed to break your heart.” On Wednesday night, one baseball game broke the hearts of all 25 men on the Dodgers roster, and the millions that pledge their allegiance to them.
In a way, this disappointing finish encapsulates the beauty that is Major League Baseball. While teams have to play a grueling 162-game season, grinding out thousands of at-bats and throwing thousands and thousands of pitches over the spring and summer, in the end it all comes down to execution in a few key moments.
The teams that become champions are the ones that excel in those few important moments. On Wednesday, the Dodgers couldn’t.
At the end of last season, legendary broadcaster Vin Scully noted upon his retirement: “There will be a new day, and eventually a new year, and when the upcoming winter gives way to spring, ah, rest assured, once again, it will be time for Dodgers baseball.”
Just like Scully said, baseball will begin again, just as it always does, and the Dodgers will embark again on the long quest to snap their title drought. Until then, however, they will be forced to wait, and consider just how far they came, only to fall one win short.