LOS ANGELES -- You know what I hate? When there's this raging debate about "Did Team A win or did Team B lose?" in big games.
Obviously, in a literal sense, both are true, and it can't possibly be an either/or situation, but the insinuation is that Team A didn't earn its championship as much as Team B choked. Before I even get into this, I want it on record that the 2017 Houston Astros were (sounds weird to say in past tense, right?) an exceptional baseball team, truly worthy of the World Series Champions title no one can ever take away from them.
They earned it. They won it. Give them all the credit they deserve, and there's still room to say the Dodgers sucked in Game 7.
Man, there's plenty of blame to go around on the Dodgers' side, too.
Yu Darvish had nothing and many were suggesting he tipped his pitches. The Astros certainly teed off like they knew it was coming. George Springer led off with a double and later homered to end Darvish's night after just 10 batters faced and five outs. He allowed four earned runs on three hits (all for extra bases). He walked one and didn't strike anyone out. The latter item is a pretty strong indicator there was something to the tipping pitches speculation.
All around, what a terrible outing from Darvish, a pitcher they acquired just in front of the trade deadline to make sure there was a fellow ace in the rotation with Clayton Kershaw. Instead, Darvish had a 21.60 ERA in two World Series starts, not getting out of the second inning either time.
"I know he wanted the baseball," manager Dave Roberts said afterward. "I know he was prepared. I just can't explain the results. I really can't."
The first-inning throw from Cody Bellinger didn't help Darvish much. With Springer advancing to third on a right-side grounder, Darvish was covering first base and Bellinger just air-mailed him, plating the first run of the game. Bellinger is a very good defender, too; he just made a bad throw.
Speaking of Bellinger, he had a rough one at the plate. He was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, leaving six men on base in the process. The swings on two of his strikeouts were lacking any kind of strength, as he was totally fooled and appeared overmatched.
Bellinger wasn't alone, of course. The Astros actually gave the Dodgers plenty of chances, they just converted only one and still didn't get as many as they should have that time.
- In the first inning, thanks to a double and two hit batsmen, the Dodgers ended up leaving the bases loaded.
- A single and another hit batter had two on with one out in the second, but Chris Taylor lined into a double play. That was just bad fortune on the ball placement, but it still adds to the runners-left-on-base tally.
- In the third inning, the Dodgers got the first two runners on this time, with a Corey Seager single and Justin Turner again being hit by a pitch. Bellinger struck out, Yasiel Puig flew out and Joc Pederson struck out. Two more left on.
- In the fifth, the Dodgers got two on with one out, but Bellinger grounded out and Puig "lined" out on a soft looper. Two more.
- In the sixth, the Dodgers got runners on first and second, again, with no outs. After a pop out, Andre Ethier would single home a run on a well-placed grounder (perhaps payback from the baseball gods for the Taylor liner), but then Taylor struck out and Seager grounded out to leave two more runners on.
To be a bit more succinct, the Dodgers left a small village on base. They were 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on as a team.
"We had a couple of chances to come through," Roberts said. "Just couldn't get the big hit."
To summarize: They weren't executing when it mattered with the bats, a big defensive blunder gave the Astros their first run and the Game 7 starting pitcher/big ticket trade deadline acquisition was awful.
That's a rough pill to swallow after such an awesome season. You can give the Astros credit while also point blank saying the Dodgers stunk up the joint in front of almost 60,000 fans dying to see the first Dodgers World Series title since 1988.
In a season where the Dodgers were at one point 91-36, won 104 games, stormed through the NL portion of the playoffs without much of even a challenge and were less than an inning from a 2-0 World Series lead, what a dud of a Game 7 to finish things off. It wasn't a lack of effort, it wasn't a "choke" job and it wasn't anything aside from bad execution against an outstanding team that executed well.
"Obviously this one hurts and, like I told the guys, when you put everything, every ounce of your being into something and you come up short, it hurts," Roberts said. "And it's supposed to hurt."
Now the Dodgers head to the offseason with an incredibly sour taste in their mouths. In their fifth straight try, they finally broke through and made the World Series, but this team was the best in the majors for the majority of the season. A season that now seems a failure on some level.
It's a long road back, too, just ask the Indians.