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  • Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch hits balls before Game 7 of baseball's World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts watches during the fourth inning of Game 7 of baseball's World Series against the Houston Astros Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

  • Houston Astros' George Springer (4) celebrates after his two-run home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the second inning of Game 7 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

  • Los Angeles Dodgers' Yu Darvish reacts after giving up a two-run home run toHouston Astros' George Springer during the second inning of Game 7 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

  • Houston Astros' George Springer, right, celebrates after his two-run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish, of Japan, during the second inning of Game 7 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Houston Astros' George Springer, left, rounds the bases after his two-run home run off Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Yu Darvish, of Japan, during the second inning of Game 7 of baseball's World Series Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Thursday, November 02, 2017 12:40 am

Column: A dud of a Game 7 ruins a classic World Series

PAUL NEWBERRY | Associated Press

 

What a letdown.

After six stellar games, this World Series finally ran out of magic.

Not to take anything away from the Houston Astros, who claimed the first Series title in franchise history with a 5-1 snoozer over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

For the eyes of Texas, this was a thing of beauty — especially considering where this team was just four short years ago, wrapping up the last of three straight 100-loss seasons while in the midst of a massive reconstruction.

Now, they'll go down as a virtual textbook on how to tear down a franchise for the purpose of building it up again, an especially poignant championship for their hurricane-ravaged city.

But the final contest of the baseball season was a total bomb.

Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was especially awful.

Again.

The right-hander acquired by the Dodgers at the trade deadline, supposedly the final piece needed to return a championship to baseball's biggest-spending team, didn't even make it through the second inning for the second time in the series.

Darvish surrendered five runs (four earned) in 1 2-3 innings, joining a very small hall of infamy. Back in 1960, Art Ditmar became the first pitcher to start a pair World Series games and not make it to the third inning in either one of them.

Now, he's got company.

Darvish didn't look much more effective than 91-year-old Don Newcombe or 81-year-old Sandy Koufax, who threw out the ceremonial first pitches. George Springer led off the game with a double and trotted home when Cody Bellinger ventured too far to his right to field Alex Bregman's grounder, a play that wouldn't been much easier for second baseman Logan Forsythe.

Bellinger had to wheel around and make an awkward left-handed throw, which sailed wide of Darvish covering the bag. Bregman went to second on the error, swiped third when Darvish didn't hold him close enough, and wound up scoring on Jose Altuve's groundout.

Houston finished off the battered Dodgers starter in the second. Brian McCann led off with a walk, Marwin Gonzalez doubled and Lance McCullers Jr.'s RBI grounder made it 3-0. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has Brandon Morrow throwing in the bullpen, but hoped to get one more out from Darvish.

Apparently, he overlooked who was coming to the plate.

It was that guy Springer again, launching a two-run shot deep into the seats in left-center field . Darvish screamed in anguish on the mound almost as soon as the bat struck the ball. It was Springer's record-tying fifth homer of the Series, and just like that it was 5-0 Astros.

They could've handed out the trophy right then and there.

Roberts will have to live all winter second-guessing himself for trotting Darvish to the hill for a second time, after he showed a total lack of command — especially with his slider — in Game 3. Whether it was nerves or just a sudden loss of form, it was clear that Darvish was the weak link in this Dodgers super team, which won 104 games during the regular season and romped through its first two playoff series, winning eight of nine game and knocking off the defending Series champion Chicago Cubs.

Roberts had Clayton Kershaw, the Game 5 starter, ready to go in the third inning. The left-hander threw four scoreless innings to at least provide the Dodgers with a chance for a comeback that never came.

What if Kershaw had started this game and turned in a similar performance?

Chances are, it would have been the classic that everyone expected, everyone deserved, after the first six games had this series poised to go down as one of the greatest in baseball history. Two extra-inning thrillers. Three other nail-biting games decided by two runs. Another that was 1-1 going to the ninth before the Dodgers put up a five-spot. Not a mention all those long balls, a record 23 to appropriately cap off the Year of the Homer.

While Roberts stuck with his rotation in Game 7 and paid a huge price, A.J. Hinch made all the right moves in the Houston dugout. He would've been a worthy choice for Series MVP if they gave the award to a manager, deftly managing a suspect bullpen by largely ignoring ineffective closer Ken Giles.

Brad Peacock, normally a starter, pitched 3 2-3 hitless innings to close out Game 3. Charlie Morton, the Game 4 starter, came out of the bullpen for the clincher and worked the final four innings for an unorthodox win, allowing just two and the lone Dodgers run, nothing at all over the final three frames.

It was a brilliant job of managing.

Just a dud of a game.

What a shame.

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Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry@ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry