It was a story made for Hollywood. A lowly baseball team. It's evil owner replaced by a beloved sports figure. But then injuries and lackadaisical play put them in an early hole. But wait, a Cuban kid no one has seen before emerges, and the hobbled power hitting shortstop returns. Mired in last place, the rejuvenated gang goes on a tear. They put together a winning streak no one has seen in decades. They not only win the division, but they obliterate the competition. They make the playoffs. They're two wins away from the World Series. You can feel the drama. Then they lose 9-0 in St. Louis and have to go home. Done. Gone.
Stories just don't end like this. The wicked witch doesn't kill Dorothy. Jack doesn't plant the magic beans and climb the beanstalk only to be eaten by the giant. Superman always gets temporarily disabled by the kryptonite, but still always manages to break free. Even the geeky guy always gets the hot girl in all of those teen movies. So what the hell happened?
It's not that the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in game six of the National League Championship Series. It's the way they lost. The National League leader in earned run average and strikeouts, likely Cy Young Award winner, and maybe soon to sign a 300-million dollar contract Clayton Kershaw, was shelled. He was touched up for four runs in the third inning, and didn't get an out in the fifth when the Cardinals put five more on the board. Then the Dodger offense, which out-hit the opposition in every playoff game except one (which was a Dodger win), was held to two measly hits.
The Dodgers didn't have the best record in baseball, and not even in the National League, but it wasn't supposed to end like this. If you cue the moving music, maybe something out of a Ken Burns documentary or an Oscar montage, let's look back...
The Dodgers had a 13-13 April, and lost Zach Greinke for several weeks after a brawl with Carlos Quentin and San Diego just two weeks into the season. LA lost eight straight to start the month of May, and when Grienke came back in June, he got into another brawl with Arizona. The young Cuban Yasiel Puig arrived on June 3, and had 44 hits in 101 at-bats that month (.436), with seven homers. Hanley Ramirez, after only playing two games in April and two in May, would return and bat .375 in June.
On June 22, the Dodgers were in last place, 9½ games behind Arizona, but would win six in a row, 10 of 11, and go 18-6 into the All-Star Break. They won 42 out of 50 games, which hadn't been done since the 1940s, and won a franchise record 15 straight road games. They won the West by 11 games, took three of four against Atlanta in the Division Series, and played for the NL Pennant against the Cardinals.
Sure, the Dodgers were down 3-2, but hopes were high. A Kershaw win would mean game seven with co-ace Zach Greinke. It sends people scrambling to Stub Hub to buy World Series tickets. Instead, it's a week with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver on the couch. The last Dodger World Championship was 25 years ago. A golden ending on the golden anniversary is the way the story should have ended. But no. Dorothy melted, Jack was gobbled up, Superman was poisoned, and the hot girl slapped the geeky guy in the face. A story six months in the making shouldn't end like that.
Tigers story is worse: It's always said in baseball that great pitching beats great hitting every time. Don't tell that to the Detroit Tigers, who may have had the best starting pitching in any playoff series ever, but lost to the Boston Red Sox four games to two. Tiger starters struck out 55 batters in 39 1/3 innings, had a 2.06 ERA (and a 1.07 WHIP for you fantasy players out there), but were 2-3. The bullpen lost the other game, when a David Ortiz grand slam meant a no-decision for Max Scherzer.
Error on Fox: Tim McCarver said it when the Red Sox won the ALCS, and Joe Buck reiterated it before they left the air. They said it's the first time since 1995 that the team with the best record in each league has matched up in the World Series. It actually also happened in 1999, when the 98-64 New York Yankees swept the 103-59 Atlanta Braves 4-0. Incredible to believe 14 years ago, but the series MVP was Mariano Rivera.
Speaking of Mo: I taped it Sunday and haven't seen it yet, but the Fox special Being Mariano airs again sometime tomorrow on Fox Sports 1. It might be worth checking out, maybe as a World Series pregame or postgame show.
You probably know this: But just for the Cardinal fans out there, the last time the Red Sox faced the Cardinals in the World Series was 2004, when the Red Sox won their first title in 86 years, forgave Bill Buckner, and lifted the Curse of the Bambino. Just sayin'.