There’s always a postmortem. Where did they go wrong? What should they have done differently? Analyzing a game—a baseball game, a World Series Game 7—is like dwelling on any other thing in the past: It’s in a fixed state. It happened, it’s not changing, and at some point you swallow it and move on.
The Dodgers, and Dave Roberts in particular, served up opportunities for any common fan to point and say that was the moment, that was the decision on which this stupid loss hinged like a big ol’ belt-high slider. Maybe Clayton Kershaw should have started (he shouldn’t have), maybe Alex Wood should have started (he shouldn’t have), maybe Roberts should have pulled Yu Darvish for Kershaw after he surrendered two runs in the first (he probably should have).
But one thing is certain: The Dodgers should have scored some goddamn runs.
It’s easier to criticize death by pitching mistakes. That ball shouldn’t have gone there; why did he leave him in to face that particular guy; why did he have such a long leash; why was the hook so quick. A loss caused by bad pitching management, largely the only real decisions managers have to make these days, is enraging, a real come-the-fuck-on type of loss.
A game lost because a team stranded 10 runners on base and went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position is excruciating, because there were no bad choices, just actionable failures. It’s one of the few certain things a team should have done. The Dodgers had the opportunities. They were there. A five-run deficit with 24 outs to go is not insurmountable. It’s a two-run home run, and another mini-rally to bring home a pair with a double, and a solo home run to cap it off. Or it’s a grand slam and a scratched-out run. It’s—I don’t know—five solo home runs. It’s a reliever who walks two to start an inning and the floodgates opening. It’s a passed ball, a botched diving catch, it’s the ground ball to beat the shift.
There are a million different ways to get a runner across the plate. A million different points at which to say that was the moment.
Here’s the official record of play-by-play—it’s really more like pitch-by-pitch. If I had to pick the worst missed opportunities for the Dodgers I’d go with these:
- The inning-ending double play at the end of the second when Chris Taylor lined right out to Carlos Correa, who tossed the ball to Jose Altuve, getting Logan Forsythe out at second.
- Yasiel Puig’s wildly unlucky lineout to Yuli Gurriel at the end of the fifth that left Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager stranded at first and third, respectively.
- And, maybe, Bellinger’s bad night? Another bad night? A three-strikeout night to bring his total in the World Series to 17 strikeouts in 28 at-bats.
The Dodgers outhit Astros in hits, six to five. They had four batters hit by pitches. After two, with the score already 5-0, each team had the exact same number of baserunners: five. The Dodgers left more men on base than the Astros had reach base all night. They had the runners! They had the runners!
What’s amusing about a game with so many runners stranded is that it’s not a particularly fun game for fans of the winning team, either. Sure, there’s relief once the inning is over, but every runner in scoring position feels like it’s slowly draining you of your soul. It’s a creeping feeling of dread and distress that, okay, doesn’t manifest, but takes something out of you anyway.
The Dodgers’ inability to bring runners home created the only tension in a game that was otherwise pretty lame. It wasn’t Game 5's madness, it wasn’t a home run derby or a great pitcher’s duel. It wasn’t Clayton Kershaw’s opportunity to save the world for the Dodgers and have his four scoreless innings become the narrative. It was a dud, a lopsided festival of sadness and exhaustion. It was right there if they could just take it it, it seemed. Of course they wanted it. That’s never enough.
It could have been done. But it wasn’t. It didn’t even seem close. And that’s something that the Dodgers’ hitters, not Dave Roberts or Yu Darvish, will have to sit with this winter. Ten men left on base. What a waste.