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David Lennon: Astros-Dodgers provided epic Series, until Game 7

BC-BBO-LENNON-COLUMN-1ST-LEDE:ND - sports (700 words),0755

David Lennon: Astros-Dodgers provided epic Series, until Game 7

(EDITORS: This story may not be used on websites) (PHOTOS)

By David Lennon

Newsday (TNS)

LOS ANGELES - The Dodgers tapped franchise royalty Wednesday night for the ceremonial first pitches, sending out Sandy Koufax and Don Newcombe to do the honors before Game 7 at Chavez Ravine.

What followed, however, was a coronation for the Astros, who again rode young slugger George Springer in a 5-1 victory that delivered the first World Series title in the 56-year history of the franchise. Springer's three-run shot in the second inning was his fifth homer, tying Reggie Jackson (1977) and Chase Utley (2009) for the most in a single Fall Classic. Springer also set records with eight extra-base hits and 29 total bases.

For a World Series filled with epic games, this Game 7 left us wanting a little bit more. It was almost completely devoid of drama, with the Astros taking a 2-0 lead in the first four minutes and never letting go.

Maybe Koufax, the younger of the two at a remarkably fit 81, should have stuck around to give the Dodgers a few innings because starter Yu Darvish didn't throw many more than he did. Darvish, who allowed four runs and recorded just five outs in Game 3, was actually worse when it mattered most.

This time, he gave up five runs - including a two-run shot by Springer - and again was removed after five outs. The Dodgers didn't do him any favors when Cody Bellinger's throwing error in the first helped the Astros take a 2-0 lead three batters into the game.

With everyone at Chavez Ravine anticipating a fantastic finish to this highly entertaining World Series, seeing the Astros quickly sprint ahead had a numbing effect on the crowd. When Springer's homer landed in the left-field pavilion to put Houston ahead 5-0 the fans sat in stunned silence as the Astros danced in front of the dugout.

This was not what we imagined at all. Through the first six games, five had been decided by two runs or fewer. Two games involved a one-run margin, both of those won in extra innings. Overall, the Dodgers held a 33-29 scoring advantage, but in the span of two innings, the Astros threatened to turn Game 7 into a blowout.

Darvish's dud left him with a 24.30 ERA in two World Series starts, and a badly blemished resume for his upcoming free agency. The Dodgers had to stabilize things after his early exit. They turned to Clayton Kershaw, not as a savior, but someone to merely stop the bleeding.

But the Dodgers found themselves in scramble mode way too soon, and any pitching advantage they might have had was wiped out early by Darvish coming up small. As for the Series subplot involving him and Yuli Gurriel - stemming from the Game 3 racist gesture - the Astros' first baseman tipped his helmet to Darvish before his first at-bat as if to say sorry. That didn't stop the L.A. fans from loudly berating Gurriel again, but not long after, the same Dodger faithful were booing Darvish off the mound.

Other than taking some consolation in Kershaw's four scoreless innings, the night didn't get any better for the Dodgers. This was the Astros' show, from start to finish, and it mattered little that their own starter, Lance McCullers, was only able to get seven outs. In fact, Darvish and McCullers cobbled together the shortest Game 7 starting effort in World Series history, beating the Royals' Jeremy Guthrie and the Giants' Tim Hudson, who combined for 15 outs in 2014.

As it was all postseason long, the bullpen ruled again, in what didn't exactly turn out to be a Game 7 for the ages. At least the first six were great.

"I can appreciate it more if we win," Hinch said before Game 7. "I'll appreciate the heck out of it. But I think as time will go by and we watch the DVDs that are made of this series and the memories that are built from this series, there will be a great appreciation of where it fits in the context of history of baseball."

Where it fits is in the Astros' trophy case, on the shelf reserved for the franchise's first World Series title.

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