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Astros defeat Dodgers, 5-1, to earn their first World Series title

Andy McCullough, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES -- The gunmetal gray clouds hung over the lights of Dodger Stadium as darkness descended on the 2017 Dodgers season inside this ballpark, a beacon inside the jet-black night of Chavez Ravine. Lit up all summer, electric for so much of this postseason, on the first day of November this stadium conceded the arrival of winter.

The calendar flipped over during the second inning, far too early for the 54,124 fans gathered here, as Astros outfielder George Springer unleashed a home run that felled Dodgers starter Yu Darvish. The end came in the seventh game of the World Series, deeper than any Dodgers team had traveled in a generation, in a 5-1 loss to the Astros, on a night when Darvish immolated and the offense sputtered through early opportunities.

This defeat will haunt the Dodgers. During the long months before the next spring dawns, they will ruminate over how close they came, and how far they remained. The decision to trust Darvish in Game 7, a choice made based on reason and probability, backfired in stunning, season-ending fashion.

Darvish made two starts in this series. He collected 10 outs total, five in each, melting down in Game 3 and again on Wednesday. The first combustion toasted the bullpen and contributed to another defeat two days later. The second ended the season.

As the Dodgers prepared for Game 7, they figured Darvish had to improve upon his first outing. Somehow, he was worse. He left with his team trailing by five runs after manager Dave Roberts allowed him to face Springer. The offense could not erase the deficit. Their hitters went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 men.

The failure by Darvish was only magnified by the pitchers who followed him onto the mound. Clayton Kershaw strung together four innings of scoreless relief to keep the Dodgers within sight of their guests. Three days after he could not hold up seven runs of support in Game 5, Kershaw added a chapter of regret to this series.

Each loss stung, for different reasons. Kenley Jansen blew a save in Game 2. In trying to patch together innings after Darvish left in Game 3, Roberts leaned on Kenta Maeda and Brandon Morrow, who were pillaged in the crushing Game 5 defeat.

Despite all this, the Dodgers still awoke on Wednesday with a chance to capture a title. Roberts spent his morning scheming possible scenarios for deploying his pitchers. At the ballpark, he sensed calm among his players. The pregame playlist featured Bob Marley's greatest hits on repeat. Three hours before first pitch, an MLB official lugged the Commissioner's Trophy behind the cage as the Dodgers took batting practice.

The crowd gathered along the third-base side greeted the Dodgers with a standing ovation as they came onto the field. The tension built over the intervening two hours, until the players retook the field just past 5:15 p.m. The energy plummeted in the first at-bat of the game.

Springer haunted the Dodgers during the first six games of this series. He had batted .375 and homered four times, including crushing blows in Game 2 and Game 5. He opened the finale by ripping a double into left field. It was an inauspicious start for the Dodgers. What followed was worse.

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