May 27, 2024

Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman offered no explanations for what happened.

How they were a combined one for 21 as the Dodgers were swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series.

How they failed to reach base safely in the final 17 innings of the best-of-five series, which mercifully ended on Wednesday night with a 4-2 defeat at Chase Field.

How the only hit credited to either member of the most productive offensive partnership in franchise history was an infield single by Freeman in Game 2.

“It’s obviously super frustrating,” Betts said. “There’s no real known cause for it.”

“It’s hard to find words right now,” Freeman said. “They just beat us. Bad series.”

The Dodgers didn’t have the pitching to win the World Series. But that wasn’t why they were swept by the Diamondbacks. The offense was. The Dodgers were outhit in Game 2. They were in Game 3.

The catalysts of an offense that scored an average of 5.6 runs per game, Betts and Freeman didn’t hit. The Dodgers scored a total of six runs over their three games against the Diamondbacks, resulting in their elimination in the divisional round for the second consecutive year.

Betts is under contract for nine more years and Freeman for four. The Dodgers can run this back again, and again, and again, and again.

But can they really?

Betts is 31. Freeman is 34.

For how many more seasons will they both be at the heights of their powers? Two? One? None?

To understand the opportunity that was lost, consider how great they were in the regular season.

Betts batted .307 with 39 home runs and 107 runs batted in, his RBI total the most by any leadoff hitter in major league history.

1

Dodgers star Mookie Betts runs back to the dugout after an out in Game 3 of the NLDS.

2

Dodgers star Freddie Freeman reacts after an out in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks.

3

Betts strikes out in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the NLDS.

1. Dodgers star Mookie Betts runs back to the dugout after an out in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Wednesday. 2. Dodgers star Freddie Freeman reacts after an out in Game 3. 3. Betts strikes out in the eighth inning of Game 3 of the NLDS. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Freeman hit .331 with 29 homers and 102 RBIs, his 59 doubles establishing a new Dodgers record.

They had two of the greatest offensive seasons in Dodgers history in the same season, and what did they have to show for it? Another crash-and-burn October.

This is on president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who constructed a starting rotation whose ineffectiveness forced the Dodgers to play from behind in every game.

But this is also on Betts and Freeman, who were infected by the undetectable virus that has drained the potency of countless Dodgers hitters before them.

They came down with severe cases of Dodgeritis.

The primary symptom: Choking.

“I can’t speak for all of us, but I know for sure I did absolutely nothing to help us win,” Betts said.

Betts was 0 for 11 in the series. Freeman was one for 10.

“We didn’t do it for three days,” Freeman said. “Not good by us.”

After facing Merrill Kelly in Game 1 and All-Star Zac Gallen in Game 2, the Dodgers faced rookie Brandon Pfaadt in Game 3.

Pfaadt was 3-9 with a 5.72 earned-run in the regular season, and showed why on Wednesday.

He threw pitch after pitch over the middle of the plate, but the Dodgers couldn’t hit them. Betts grounded out to third base in the first inning on a down-the-middle fastball. On the very next at-bat, Freeman flied out to left field on a pitch that was in the middle third of the plate.

“I had pitches to hit all night and kept rolling them over just like I’ve been doing for five weeks,” Freeman said.

Later in the game, with the Dodgers behind, Betts and Freeman were less selective, however. Betts morphed back into the hitter he was in the series’ first two games.

Asked how the Diamondbacks contained the Dodgers tandem, manager Tony Lovullo replied: “Just running balls on both sides of the plate. Maybe chalk lines, chalk lines, and then just seeing if they would chase, and reading and seeing what was going on from there. They’re very potent hitters. You can’t make mistakes with them. If you do, you’ll be punished. I think our pitchers did a great job.”

In the eighth inning, Betts and Freeman were granted one final chance to turn around the game, and the series. With the Dodgers behind, 4-2, pinch hitter Kolten Wong drew a leadoff walk against right-hander Kevin Ginkel.

Betts struck out on a slider that was below and wide of the strike zone.

Freeman followed with a strikeout on a pitch that was also wide of the zone, only his was also above it.

J.D. Martinez flied out to center field and the threat was over.

For Betts, the slump was a continuation of a final month of the season in which he batted only .244 with one homer.

“I didn’t do very much towards the end of the season, but it doesn’t matter if it’s frustrating or not, man,” Betts said. “You gotta get the job done. Doesn’t matter how you were playing, what was going on. At the end of the dsya, when this postseason starts, you gotta get the job done.”

Betts had said many times before that he enjoyed playing with this particular group of players, and was asked if he was saddened by the possibility of never playing with the same team again.

“It sucks,” he said. “But these relationships you build with these guys are everlasting. Yes, I may not be able to take the field with a couple guys in here, but they’re always a call away, they’re always a text away, they’re always at dinner. Those relationships, they never go away.”

But the ability to hit a baseball does. Betts won’t forever be the same player he is now. Freeman won’t either. If the Dodgers don’t win another World Series in the near future, how they view this season could change. Their fond memories could be replaced with regrets. Their best chance to win a championship together might have just passed.

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