Originally Published: November 2, 2017 6 a.m.
LOS ANGELES — Even Clayton Kershaw couldn’t save the Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series.
The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner pitched four scoreless innings of relief when starter Yu Darvish fell into a five-run hole after 1 2/3 innings Wednesday night.
But the Dodgers’ offense never put it together. Los Angeles mustered just six hits and stranded 10 runners in a 5-1 loss to Houston that extended its championship drought to 30 years.
It was a clunker of an ending for baseball’s best team during the regular season.
“Like I told the guys, when you put everything, every ounce of your being into something and you come up short, it hurts,” manager Dave Roberts said, “and it’s supposed to hurt.”
The Dodgers won 104 games, boasted an NL-leading six All-Stars and won the NL West for the fifth consecutive year. They won 43 of 50 games over a two-month stretch from June to early August, the best 50-game run in the majors since the 1912 New York Giants.
Their lead reached a whopping 21 games on Aug. 23, and they survived an 11-game September skid to coast into October.
Boasting the majors’ highest payroll of $240 million, Los Angeles rolled past Arizona in the NL Division Series and then knocked off the defending champion Cubs in five games in the NL Championship Series to reach their first World Series since 1988.
The Dodgers and Astros dueled to a 3-all tie through six thrilling games, with Los Angeles rallying to force the first World Series Game 7 in Dodger Stadium history.
But, a few miles from Hollywood, the script got flipped.
And it was the Astros celebrating the end of their 55-year title drought on the Dodgers’ field.
“It’s too hard to think about what the Astros are getting to do right now,” a dejected Kershaw said.
Roberts, so quick with his hook all season, left Darvish in to face Series MVP George Springer in the second. Springer blasted a two-run homer — his record-tying fifth of the Series — and Houston extended its lead to 5-0.
Brandon Morrow got the last out of the inning before Kershaw came on in the third.
The left-handed ace allowed two hits, struck out four and walked two, leaving fans to question why Roberts didn’t start Kershaw on short rest in the first place. Or at least bring in Kershaw to face Springer in the second.
“There’s always going to be second-guessing,” Roberts said. “We felt good with Yu starting the game.”
Darvish only managed five outs in losing Game 3 at Houston. He’s the second pitcher in World Series history with less than two innings pitched in two starts.
“I let my teammates down,” he said through a translator.
Darvish took the loss, giving up five runs — four earned — and three hits. He didn’t record a strikeout and walked one.
“I know he wanted the baseball. I know he was prepared. I just can’t explain the results,” Roberts said. “I understand it’s Game 7, but I just felt his stuff was good.”
Acquired at the July trade deadline, Darvish was best known in the Series for being the target of a racist gesture by Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel during Game 3. On Wednesday, Gurriel tipped his helmet to Darvish before stepping in for his first at-bat of the game.
“I just tried not to hit him,” Darvish said. “What happened didn’t affect me at all.”
Kenley Jansen appeared earlier than usual, too. The closer, who tied for the NL lead with 41 saves, trotted out in the seventh to face the top of the Astros’ order. He induced a flyout from Springer, struck out Alex Bregman and walked Jose Altuve, who stole second before Carlos Correa popped out to shortstop.
“We feel the pain and we’ll be motivated by this pain,” Jansen said. “It’s going to take a while. It breaks your heart.”
Alex Wood, another starter working in relief, retired six consecutive batters over the eighth and ninth innings.
Roberts made 32 pitching changes in the Series, breaking a record set by St. Louis’ Tony La Russa in 2011.
With Kershaw pumping his fists and yelling, “Let’s go!” from the dugout, the Dodgers got two runners on with no outs to open the sixth.
Andre Ethier, the longest-tenured Dodger, pushed across one run with a pinch-hit single. That allowed the crowd of 54,124, stunned into silence early, a rare moment to cheer.
But the Dodgers stranded two more runners and trailed 5-1.
Their big bats were silenced, too. Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson were a combined 4 for 22. Bellinger whiffed three times, and his 17 strikeouts were a Series record. He also broke Yankees star Aaron Judge’s freshly set mark with 29 strikeouts this postseason.
“This is just a great group of guys,” Kershaw said. “Without getting too emotional, just trying to embrace each other. We all feel the same hurt.”
The Dodgers didn’t manage a baserunner over the last three innings, keeping their title drought intact.
“I hope we can get to this point again,” Kershaw said, “but it definitely wasn’t easy to get here.”