Dodgers repeat the agony of World Series defeat

LOS ANGELES — It was a sight all too familiar to dispirited fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, with one hand resting on each knee, doubled over in agony while an October opponent jogged around the bases.

On Sunday night, in a make-or-break Game 5 of the World Series, it was Steve Pearce, then Mookie Betts, then J.D. Martinez. Their home runs accounted for the four runs Kershaw allowed through a seven-inning start at Dodger Stadium, and they were more than enough for a dominant David Price to lead the Boston Red Sox to another championship and send the Dodgers into another agonizing winter.

Last year, the Dodgers played an epic, back-and-forth World Series against the Houston Astros and lost in seven games. This year, they were overmatched against a Red Sox team that finished the regular season with a plus-229 run differential, losing the finale by a 5-1 score. The Dodgers won only once in the World Series, and so the search for their first championship since 1988 continues.

The Dodgers are the first team since the Texas Rangers of 2010 and 2011 to lose back-to-back World Series. Three teams have returned to the World Series a third straight time after losing two in a row: the 1909 Detroit Tigers, the 1913 New York Giants and the 1923 New York Yankees. Only the Yankees won the third time.

The Dodgers persevered almost every time they faced adversity throughout the 2018 season, right until the very end.

They began the season 16-26, then roared back into contention by winning 43 of their next 63 games. They went 3-9 around the middle of August but recovered by winning 11 of 15. While mired in a tight divisional race heading into the final weekend, the Dodgers won their last four regular-season games, including a one-game tiebreaker, to claim their sixth consecutive National League West title.

They cruised past the young Atlanta Braves in four NL Division Series games. Then they outlasted the matchup-reliant Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Championship Series, winning Game 7 on the road to advance to the final round for the second straight fall.

But the 108-win Red Sox were too talented and too disciplined to beat.

The Dodgers made key mistakes and didn’t get enough offensive production while dropping the first two games at Fenway Park. They outlasted Boston in a record-setting, 18-inning Game 3 that ended on Max Muncy ‘s walk-off homer. But the Dodgers blew a four-run lead — for the first time in 55 chances this season — late in Game 4.

In Game 5, the Dodgers couldn’t solve Price, who took the mound on short rest and allowed only a David Freese solo homer in the first seven innings. Kershaw gave up a two-run homer to Pearce in the first, then retired 14 of 15 before facing the Red Sox a third time through the order. With one out in the sixth, Betts greeted him with a solo homer. To lead off the seventh, Martinez did the same. Kershaw leaned against the dugout railing when Pearce hit another home run against Pedro Baez in the eighth, increasing Boston’s lead to four runs.

In that moment, Kershaw might have also pondered his future. At some point this week, Kershaw must decide whether to exercise the opt-out clause in his contract, which is scheduled to pay him $65 million over the next two seasons. The 30-year-old left-hander will probably opt for free agency, and there’s a chance — slim as it might seem — that this was his final game in a Dodgers uniform.

The same possibility exists for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who currently doesn’t have a contract beyond this season. Roberts is well-respected in most circles, but he was greeted by boos when his name was announced before Game 5. Dodgers fans were still upset about Roberts’ decision to remove Rich Hill in the seventh inning of Game 4, a contest that altered the dynamic of the entire series.

The Red Sox have their fourth championship in 14 years. The Dodgers have zero in 30, and now they must answer some key questions.

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