Video: What went wrong for the Dodgers?

The Los Angeles Dodgers fell to the Houston Astros 5-1 in Game 7 of the World Series. Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish could not get out of the 2nd inning, and the Dodgers batters went ice cold with runners on base.

J.P. Hoornstra, Bill Plunkett, and Jonathan Khamis analyze what went wrong, including answering whether or not Clayton Kershaw should have started.

Also, the guys grab postgame interviews with the Dodgers .

Video by Jonathan Khamis, for the Southern California News Group.

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Whicker: Astros leave Dodgers offense stranded in space

LOS ANGELES — You can send a good-riddance bouquet to Yu Darvish if you wish.

You can build the weirdest Erector set of reasons why Dave Roberts bollixed up the pitching.

In lieu of recognizing that the Dodgers lost the World Series to a better team.

You can wonder all winter why manifest destiny died in the glove of Yuli Gurriel, who took the final throw from Jose Altuve and disbelievingly put his hands on his head as the Houston Astros, who first were named the Colt .45s and played on a snake-infested field with mosquitos the size of backpacks, won the first World Series in their history.

But in the end you have to go back to Dodger trademarks that lost their adhesiveness and fell off, and Dodger habits that they somehow unlearned.

In the tough moments, the big blue offensive machine was taken apart by Houston pitching and never reassembled. With all those pieces on the ground, nothing else mattered.

Game 7 was the most cut-and-dried game of the series. There were no lead changes, no course corrections after Series MVP George Springer creamed a two-run home run off Darvish in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.

Yet Lance McCullers Jr. hit almost as many Dodgers as he did the targets from catcher Brian McCann, and he was gone in the third inning, with plenty of chances for the Dodgers to recover. They didn’t, and their clubhouse reeked of disbelief.

“I thought all day we were going to come in here to win,” catcher Austin Barnes said.

“We left everything we had on that field,” center fielder Chris Taylor said. “I think everyone in here is physically and mentally exhausted. Throughout the playoffs, there was no letup. We’re pretty spent right now. It’s a good time to get away from baseball for a while.”

Their season ended on the first day of November, less than three and a half months from when another one will begin. In boxing they say there is always a style waiting for you, a method to neutralize whatever you do. That seemed impossible after 104 regular-season wins, but the Astros had that secret sauce. It came from pitchers most Dodgers fans couldn’t have picked out of a Starbucks line.

Charlie Morton pitched the final four innings of Game 7 with 99 mph fastballs and great variety and precision. He held the Dodgers to five hits in 10⅓ innings overall, with 11 strikeouts.

Brad Peacock pitched 7⅓ innings against L.A. and gave up four hits.

The Dodgers managed to avoid losing to Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. But Peacock finished them off in Game 3 and Morton in Game 7.

“Morton had that bowling-ball sinker,” Barnes said. “But when they got the five-run lead, sure, they were going to come right at us.”

“He threw me a lot of changeups,” Taylor said of Morton. “Curves and changeups and that heavy sinker, really tough at-bats.”

‘“I think they put the ball in the spots they wanted,” first baseman Cody Bellinger said. “They were aggressive and got ahead of us. We had guys on base, chances to do something, and couldn’t get the hit we needed.”

All season the Dodgers were finicky eaters at the plate. They stayed within the confines of their personal strike zones. They became annoying fouling machines in two-strike situations, and then teed off when pitchers gave in.

The Astros took the game back to where it lives, where pitchers put the burden on hitters. The Dodgers drew three walks per game and saw more pitches than Houston did. But Morton needed only 128 pitches to get his 31 outs in the Series.

“What I learned is that it’s not the regular season, and you have to make adjustments in-game if necessary,” Bellinger said. “And sometimes, different kinds of adjustments.”

Bellinger, who as usual faced more of the media music than any other Dodger, had a strange Series. He wound up striking out 17 times, which is a Series record, and 29 times for the postseason, which is also a record. He started the Series 0 for 13. But then he won Game 4 and did all he could to win Game 5, with a homer and a triple.

Seven games were long enough for Bellinger, as good a defender as either side had, to throw behind Darvish on Alex Bregman’s grounder, giving Houston a 1-0 lead in about three minutes. Bellinger wound up 4 for 28 for the Series and had plenty of company in misery.

Justin Turner, who was far from 100 percent physically, went 4 for 25 with 2 RBIs. Yasiel Puig was 4 for 27. Chris Taylor and Corey Seager were both 6 for 27.

Add it up and the Dodgers hit .205 for the Series and .200 with men in scoring position. More important, their on-base percentage was only .290.

And yet they will have trouble letting go of the very legitimate notion that they should have won the Series in five games.

They had a two-run lead in Game 2 going into the eighth inning before Houston laid waste to the bullpen, and they had three leads in that Mad Max of a Game 5 in Houston before Dave Roberts was reduced to using relievers who should have spent the night in the hammock.

“That’s probably what I’ll look back on, the two games we had a chance to win and didn’t,” Taylor said. “But I’m sure we won a couple of games you could say the same thing about.”

A few Dodgers were giving the “we had a great season” speech without convincing anyone, including themselves. The verge of victory is a more painful resting place than the periphery. Especially when you forget how you got there.

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Video: Dodgers beat Verlander, force Game 7

The Dodgers defeated the Houston Astros 3-1 in Game 6 of the World Series. Joc Pederson hit a home run off Houston ace Justin Verlander while Chris Taylor also added an RBI.

Bill Plunkett, J.P. Hoornstra, and Jonathan Khamis recap the game, while also previewing Game 7.

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Bill Miller’s large, imperfect strike zone ultimately favored hitters in World Series Game 5

HOUSTON — Corey Seager nearly slammed his bat through home plate like a sledgehammer.

Logan Forsythe looked shocked.

Two of the most mild-mannered Dodgers on a baseball field weren’t alone in their reaction to called strikes on Sunday.

Home plate umpire Bill Miller’s strike zone was a recurring cause for confusion – not just for the players on the field for Game 5 of the World Series, but for fans viewing through the vantage point of the center-field camera at Minute Maid Park.

Various social media jabs compared the shape of Miller’s strike zone to the shape of Texas or the Nickelodeon Network logo, an orange splat mark.

The Dodgers had reason to be upset. They lost the game 13-12 and struck out 12 times to the Astros’ six.

Even the Astros acknowledged Miller’s strike zone was far from perfect.

“I probably got a call or two that went my way, and a call or two that didn’t go my way,” pitcher Collin McHugh said. “That’s baseball and this is the World Series and nobody gets here by making excuses and nobody’s going to start making excuses.”

McHugh walked three batters in two innings Sunday. He also struck out four batters; three were caught looking at strike there.

To a degree, this was to be expected. According to Inside Edge Stats, Miller had the most called strikeouts of any umpire during the regular season with 151.

Both teams had access to this data, including which pitches they could expect to be called strikes and balls on the border of the standard strike zone. Brian McCann, Houston’s veteran catcher, said the inconsistency of the strike zone didn’t stand out to him after the 5-hour, 17-minute game.

I can’t update this montage of examples fast enough bill miller the home plate ump for game 5 is calling the worst strike zone this is crazy pic.twitter.com/Yor1XJSeaU

— Horrible Stats (@horriblestats) October 30, 2017

“I think for us, and I think on the other side, we know Bill Miller’s strike zone,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. “So I don’t think that at all affected the outcome of the game.”

Umpire assignments rotate throughout the postseason. The crews are handpicked by Major League Baseball’s operations department. Seniority is a consideration. So is performance.

An umpire whose strike zone lacks consistency, or whose calls routinely get challenged and overturned, is less likely to work a playoff game than a more consistent, accurate umpire – at least, this is how MLB tries to draw up the assignments.

Furthermore, no umpire works two consecutive series – a League Division Series followed by a League Championship Series, or an LCS followed by a World Series, for example. Miller worked the Dodgers’ National League Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks but he wasn’t behind the plate for any of the three games.

By the ninth inning, it seemed like both teams had adjusted. There were no called strikeouts after the eighth.

“I was watching it down in the bullpen and I felt some calls were going their way early,” said Astros relief pitcher Chris Devenski said, who finished the ninth inning and started the 10th for Houston. “We had some calls go our way. But in that situation, I feel like you can’t really let the umpire affect your performance. You just go out there and play baseball.”

The irony of the situation is that a larger strike zone ought to favor pitchers. Yet in Game 5, the two teams combined for 28 hits, 25 runs and 11 walks – none of which were intentional.

For all the hitters’ frustrations, they seemed to do just fine.

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‘Houston Strong’ indeed: A city put to the test has an Astros team up to the task

HOUSTON — The huge sign beside the highway as you come from the airport into this city says, “Houston Strong.” Those two words apply to the willpower of millions here who strive every day, and will have to continue that effort for months and years, to repair the damage done by flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

Measured on that scale, a baseball team is a smallish thing. Yet, in their way, the Houston Astros exemplify “Houston Strong,” or, at the least, live up to the standard of grit and resilience that has distinguished and dignified this city in its worst times.

On Wednesday in Los Angeles, the Astros came from behind to win the first World Series game in the history of this Houston franchise. Then, on Friday night here at Minute Maid Park, to double the pleasure and move halfway to a baseball title, the Astros did it again, beating the Dodgers 5-3 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead in this best-of-seven World Series.

After ripping a Dodgers victory from the grip of the great closer Kenley Jansen in Game 2, the Astros bashed another symbol of this Dodgers season — right-hander Yu Darvish, the expensive trade-deadline acquisition who was supposed to be some kind of final title piece, nearly overkill in a rotation that already had Clayton Kershaw. Yet Darvish got only five outs while giving up four loud runs.

Many wondered if there would be aftershocks following the home run bonanza in Game 2. Would the Astros, who won that 11-inning nerve-shredder, carry momentum into the next game?

Houston Manager A.J. Hinch, following the ancient canons of the baseball faith, reaffirmed before Game 3 that “momentum is the next game’s pitcher.”

How right he was. Luckily for his Astros, that pitcher was Darvish. You can be bad. Or you can be awful. Darvish was both.

The 6-foot-5 Dodgers right-hander, one of the most talented pitchers in the sport, got only five outs, surrendered four runs on six hits and fanned no one. In fact, on 49 pitches, he got only one swinging strike. To find a comparably bad World Series start you need to go back 15 years.

Normally, Darvish has 10 different pitches and strikes out tons of hitters. In 2013, he fanned 277 batters. This season, after injuries in recent years have taken a bit of edge off his best stuff, Darvish struck out 209.

But there are nights when for little reason, perhaps a glitch in mechanics, maybe the pressure of a first World Series start, a man takes the mound and discovers that he has nothing on the ball but his naked fingers. From the first two hitters, Darvish could not find the release point for his breaking balls, leaving some head-high and merely spinning.

By the second inning, the Astros were waiting for fastballs. After what appeared to be a brushback pitch inside at the stomach level to Yuli Gurriel, the Astros first baseman retaliated by lashing the next pitch into the left field Crawford boxes for a solo homer.

A kind of Houston feeding frenzy followed as Josh Reddick slapped a shift-beating double down the left field line and Evan Gattis walked. Marvin Gonzalez smashed a ball off the wall in left-center but settled for merely an RBI single when Gattis, one of the world’s slowest mammals, only advanced one base. A Brian McCann single, an Alex Bregman sacrifice fly on a blistered liner to center and a double crashed off the left-center field wall by MVP candidate Jose Altuve left the score at 4-0.

Even with two outs, McCann could not score from first on Altuve’s long double, costing the Astros a fifth run off Darvish. How the Astros led the majors in scoring with Gattis and McCann in the same lineup is a marvel. I don’t want to say that Gattis and McCann are slow, but their shadows get ahead of them and yell for them to hurry up.

“Yu had a hard time landing his slider. From the start he was out of sorts,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “His fastball command was off.”

Though Darvish had helped them to a 4-0 lead, the Astros were far from safe. Their bullpen has been something of a nightmare this October. In Game 2, closer Ken Giles blew a two-run lead in the 10th inning and winner Kevin Devenski gave up a solo homer in the 11th.

In Game 3, for the second time in a week, Hinch found a novel solution. He erased his bullpen entirely. In Game 7 of the ALCS, Lance McCullers Jr., normally a starter, pitched the last four innings in relief for the save.

Hinch had anticipated this, or perhaps feared his own pen so much, that he’d sought out McCullers the night before to explain that, even though he wouldn’t start that Game 7, “you may finish it.”

“I wanted him to go to sleep in a positive frame of mind,” Hinch said.

In Game 3, the script was flipped. This time McCullers started and pitched credibly. But he had periods of wildness, including walking the first three Dodgers of the third inning. By the sixth inning, he was running on empty.

With two men on base, one out and the Astros ahead 5-1, Hinch called for Brad Peacock, who, for parts of the season, was the Astros’ best starting pitcher. Packed Minute Maid Park could almost be heard murmuring, “How are we going to get 11 more outs?”

To the surprise of almost everyone, Peacock allowed the two inherited McCullers runners to score, but got all of the remaining Dodgers outs — an 11-out save, just one out less than McCullers in his shutdown of the Yanks.

“I’m not trying to bring back the three-inning save,” Hinch said, chuckling. “But (Peacock) was cruising. He was in complete control of every at-bat.”

Brad Peacock fires 3.2 no-hit frames to finish Game 3 for @Astros – longest hitless #WorldSeries relief outing since 1964 (Ron Taylor, STL). pic.twitter.com/xchRQdmfJu

— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) October 28, 2017

McCullers got the win. Perhaps this was appropriate, part of the whole scene and mood here, since he did perhaps the best job among the Astros of trying to express how much they have been impacted by the destruction that Hurricane Harvey inflicted on their city. And how much they hope to offer whatever distraction, “Houston Strong” pride or any other good feeling whatsoever through their wild baseball ride.

“Very tough. A lot of guys, their wives were here, their families, kids. … In those difficult days, everyone genuinely just wanted to do what they could to help the city,” McCullers said. “Going to see people, trying to lift their spirits. … We just wanted to get back here and show the city how much we love them.

“It became something we rallied around. We still have pictures hanging in our lockers. People here are hard-working and they went through something that a lot of people can’t understand,” added McCullers, the son of a big leaguer. “A lot of people lost everything. So, for us to be able to play baseball for a couple of hours for those people to have a little bit of joy, to get away from what they were having to go through – we wanted to give that to them.”

And, so they have.

In the AL Division Series they bashed Boston’s Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel in crucial situations in Game 4. In Game 2 of the ALCS, Altuve and Correa rocked the Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman. Then, Game 2 of this series lifted the spirits, at least of baseball fans, to the highest point in the franchise’s 56-season history with its first World Series win.

As 43,282 stood and roared for the first World Series win on their home field, they might as well have all been peacocks, spreading their orange plumage in delight. Houston, for a night, was bonded, whole, strong – and just two more wins away from winning a World Series.

“I never experienced anything like that in my life.”- Brad Peacock to @Ken_Rosenthal #WorldSeries https://t.co/KoayBP1gU7

— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 28, 2017

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Video: Dodgers fall to Astros in epic Game 2

The Astros defeated the Dodgers 7-6 to take Game 2 of the World Series.

This game featured multiple comebacks, home runs, blown saves, and more.

Bill Plunkett, J.P. Hoornstra, and Jonathan Khamis break it all down, including interviews with Dodgers players.

Video by Jonathan Khamis, for SCNG.

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Whicker: With a game in their pocket, Dodgers’ bullpen explodes

LOS ANGELES — Justin Verlander called it an instant classic. But it lasted 4 hours and 19 minutes.

Some games defy words. Some games just mock them. When both teams slug six home runs in the ninth, 10th and 11th innings, and when Justin Verlander’s Houston Astros score twice in the 10th and twice in the 11th and still have a tying run at the plate to deal with, this game you’re watching has escaped its moorings.

Maybe a World Series has, too.

Houston won Game 2, 7-6, in 11 innings. By then both closers had been devoured. The Dodgers were trying to make it to shore with Brandon McCarthy, who had pitched six major league innings since July 20. It didn’t take long.

Cameron Maybin singled and George Springer, who had struck out four times in Game 1, capped a three-hit night with the game-winning home run, although Charlie Culberson of the Dodgers homered in the bottom of the 11th and romped around the bases as if he’d tied the score. By then, who was counting?

Atmospherics had a lot to do with this home run derby, and by the time Verlander was raving about his teammates, the audience had forgotten that he had absolutely squelched the Dodgers in the first six innings with only two hits. But the hits were a solo shot by Joc Pederson and a two-run homer by Corey Seager that gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead after six.

That’s where you begin reconstructing this mess and realize how damaging this could be for the Dodgers.

If you lead Verlander, 3-1, you need to win that game.

If you give the ball to Kenley Jansen with a 3-1 lead in the eighth, you need to win that game.

If you somehow strike for two in the bottom of the 10th, on Yasiel Puig’s home run and an RBI single by Kiké Hernandez, and tie it 5-5 with the crowd at full throttle, you need to win that game.

Primarily because you have won those games so very often, and because a win would put Houston down 0-2, having fired the guns of Verlander and Dallas Keuchel in Los Angeles.

Now it changes completely. Now Keuchel is guaranteed a Game 5 start. If the Dodgers win only once in Houston, there will be a Game 6 back here on Tuesday, and it will feature Verlander again.

The other aftereffect is that the cloak of invincibility has now been removed from the Dodgers’ bullpen and especially Jansen, who had blown one save all season in a game the Dodgers eventually won.

Jansen did not pitch poorly. His 0-and-2 cutter to Marwin Gonzalez started high but then settled down by a few inches, into a more comfortable spot, and it did not get in on Gonzalez’s hands. Gonzalez had 23 home runs and 90 RBI this season with a .907 OPS, sixth in the American League.

“I told him he was going to have a chance to win it,” Verlander said. “It’s easy to lose confidence in this game. The TVs are on before the game and everybody’s talking about the Dodgers’ bullpen and how tough they are. It’s like nobody thinks we can win. I just tried to tell the guys how good they are. I know, I’ve pitched against them.”

Jansen has no trouble working two innings, but he has rarely entered an inning with someone on base. Alex Bregman had just doubled off Brandon Morrow to begin the eighth, and Roberts remembered a tough at-bat Bregman had given Jansen after Game 1.

Bregman wound up scoring on Carlos Correa’s single. That run will be ignored but it broke the bullpen’s reccord streak of 28 consecutive scoreless innings in the postseason. It also gave the Astros evidence that Jansen was no unstoppable Cyborg.

“He’s human,” Corey Seager said. “You always think he’s going to get the job done, but he’s our guy. We get into that situation again, that’s the guy we want out there.”

The problem, as Verlander noted, is that the Dodgers emptied their relief bucket somewhat recklessly. It began when Roberts lifted Rich Hill after four terrific innings, with the only run unearned.

“We had a few scoreless innings after that,” Roberts said, “and I wanted Kenta (Maeda) to pitch to the top of the lineup.”

But the Dodgers ran through Maeda and then Tony Watson, for a one-pitch double play, and Ross Striping mysteriously started the seventh and walked Gonzalez. Morrow bailed out the Dodgers and, in truth, they got where they needed to be, although it was by the circle route.

But at this point Hill deserves to be entrusted when he’s pitching well. Seeking the ideal matchup for every out in every inning requires a bigger pitching staff that MLB allows teams to have.

Josh Fields had to clean up after Jansen and it wasn’t pretty. Jose Altuve homered in the 10th and so did Correa, who turned and flipped his bat defiantly. When Yasiel Puig hit his 10th-inning homer before Hernandez’s single re-tied the score, he conspicuously, delicately laid the bat on the ground.

“I think it’s great to get excited and play with that kind of joy, especially for Latino players,” Puig said.

Meanwhile, Houston got nice work from Will Harris and Joe Musgrove in its oft-criticized bullpen and was able to summon Chris Devenski, an All-Star, after the Dodgers drove out closer Ken Giles. Devenski gave up Culberson’s homer but managed to get three outs, a one-small-step-for-man accomplishment in a game like this.

The Astros became the first team in postseason history to hit three home runs in extra innings. The Dodgers lost in extra innings for only the fifth time this season. They also forgot to lock down a victory that was safely inside the door. They will consider themselves fortunate if all they lost was a game.

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