Dodgers’ best hitters couldn’t end slump

The ball beat Corey Seager to first base, and the World Series was over.

As Seager retreated slowly and deliberately back down the first-base line and toward the Dodgers dugout, the World Series championship celebration exploded all around him. The players of the Houston Astros charged across the line. Seager had to dodge those players, and the television cameras chasing them, and the guys carrying a table for the awards presentation.

Seager had left his bat at home plate. No one had picked it up, so he did. He disappeared into the dugout, and into the 2018 season.

He had made the last out in a game, and in a series, in which the Dodgers’ best hitters had made too many outs.

The outrage will be the same, whatever the outlet, wherever Dodgers fans gather. On social media, on the radio, in sports bars: How come Yu Darvish started? How come Clayton Kershaw did not? What kind of crazy logic was Dave Roberts using in arranging his pitchers?

No sport lends itself to second-guessing as well as baseball does, and a fan base that had waited three decades for the return of the World Series certainly is entitled to a few questions.

But the answer as to why the Dodgers lost Game 7 extends beyond the pitchers, or the manager. This is the more fundamental aspect of the answer: The Dodgers scored one run.

There wasn’t much to second-guess about that. The Dodgers finally had settled into a regular lineup, after playing much of the summer without one.

Roberts rolled out Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig atop the lineup. Nothing for him to do but let them hit.

They did not. The Dodgers batted .205 for the series. Taylor and Seager each hit .222. Turner hit .160. Puig hit .148. Bellinger, the presumptive National League rookie of the year, fared worst of all. He batted .143, with one home run and 17 strikeouts in 28 at-bats. He set records for most strikeouts in the World Series, and for most strikeouts in the postseason.

He became the first player in World Series history to strike out four times in two different games — not in the same year, but over a career.

“I was just overaggressive,” Bellinger said. “I didn’t make adjustments.”

The tone of Game 7 was set in the first inning. Darvish gave up two runs in the top of the inning, but the Dodgers were in position to tie the score in the bottom of the inning.

Taylor doubled to start the inning, so the Dodgers had a man in scoring position. Seager struck out. Turner was hit by a pitch, so the Dodgers had two on. Bellinger struck out.

Puig was hit by a pitch, so the Dodgers had the bases loaded. Joc Pederson struck out. Three at-bats with runners in scoring position, and three out. Bellinger said the Dodgers were not drained by falling behind 2-0, six pitches into the game.

“Even after that, I still felt fine,” he said. “The not getting the runners in was more draining on our part.”

By the time the Dodgers finally got a hit with runners in scoring position, in the sixth inning, they had gone hitless in their first 10 chances. Andre Ethier, in what was probably the final at-bat of his 12-year career with the Dodgers, came off the bench to deliver the RBI single. The Dodgers still had runners on first and second, trailing 5-1, with one out. A single would have brought the potential tying run to the plate. Taylor struck out. Seager grounded out. In all, the Dodgers went 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position. They left 10 men on base.

Batting average is not everything, of course. Turner reached base six times via walk or hit by pitch. The Dodgers outhit the Astros in Game 7. Total runs scored in the series: Dodgers 34, Astros 34.

“We scored a lot of runs in the series,” Turner said. “We were in every game.”

Said Bellinger: “We’re hanging our heads right now, because we’re such a good team and we could have easily won that game, or won the series. That’s how baseball goes. Sometimes, the ball just doesn’t go your way.”

Bellinger said he did not want to forget the stinging sensation he felt late Wednesday night.

“Hopefully, it sticks with me the next time we’re in the playoffs, to remember how I feel right now,” he said. “We have such a young, talented group here that there’s no doubt in my mind, and in everyone else’s mind, that we’ll be back.”

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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