On the field, there was no miracle ending, as a Dodgers season filled with unexpected twists and turns jumped the rails for good in a 5-1 loss to the Phillies, who won the best-of-seven National League Championship Series in five games and advanced to the World Series.
"I think we played great, and everybody gave a great effort, and nobody pointed fingers at each other, and they played better than us," Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez said. "The better team always wins, so they're a better team. When you make mistakes, you pay for it, and that's what we did, and that's why we lost."
The Dodgers trailed from the first batter, as Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a homer off Chad Billingsley on a 3-2 pitch. The Phillies extended the lead in the third inning, when Ryan Howard defeated the Dodgers' defensive shift by lining an RBI single past first baseman James Loney, and Pat Burrell followed with an RBI single.
Billingsley, who lasted only 2 1/3 innings in a Game 2 loss, was removed after 2 2/3 innings in this defeat, charged with three runs.
"I just want to forget my last two starts, I guess," Billingsley said. "I'll learn from it. That's all I can do."
The Phillies added two unearned runs off Greg Maddux in the fifth inning, when shortstop Rafael Furcal, eligible to be a free agent, committed an NLCS-record three errors in one inning, two on the same play. The only other player to commit three errors in an inning in the postseason was Dodgers outfielder Willie Davis in the 1966 World Series.
Furcal, who also committed an error in Game 1 that turned into an unearned run, spent five months fighting his way back from disk surgery on his back, only to show up for this game with a stiff neck. Then he twisted his left knee in the first inning, when the Phillies' Jayson Werth slid into him at second base.
"This was a frustrating game for me," said Furcal, "and a frustrating year."
Furcal insisted on playing with the injuries, but he had trouble fielding, throwing and hitting. The errors led to a pair of unearned runs and he didn't get the ball out of the infield in four at-bats.
"We knew it from the get-go, but we certainly were not going to replace him and he didn't want to be replaced," manager Joe Torre said.
Phillies starter Cole Hamels, who allowed the Dodgers one run in a Game 1 win, pitched seven innings, the only run he allowed being a home run in the sixth inning by Ramirez, another free-agent eligible. Fittingly, it was solo, because Ramirez was pretty much on his own here. He had four homers and 10 RBIs in eight postseason games.
Hamels was the series MVP, going 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 13 strikeouts. He had five Wednesday, each ending an inning. He outpitched Derek Lowe in Game 1 and Billingsley in Game 2.
Billingsley, a 16-game winner in the regular season and dominant in one playoff win against the Cubs, became the focal point in the series loss. He was defeated twice by the Phillies, as well as criticized for not retaliating to protect his teammates after Brett Myers' bullying brushbacks in Game 2.
"They were the best team," said Torre, who waded into the winners' clubhouse to congratulate counterpart Charlie Manuel. "They didn't really have any malfunctions. Their bullpen was amazing. They deserve to go to the World Series."
The Dodgers, who swept the Cubs in the NL Division Series, fielded a younger, less experienced lineup and it played that way. The Phillies bullied them in Game 2 and buried them with crucial home runs -- from the two that beat Lowe in Game 1 to the two off young Dodgers relievers Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton in a crushing Game 4 loss to Rollins' that set the tone against Billingsley on Wednesday.
"It's not a good feeling, to get to this point and not get to the World Series," catcher Russell Martin said. "We have to remember how this feels when we show up next year. Philly outplayed us."
Offensively, the Dodgers had Ramirez, but as a soon-to-be free agent, they might not have him for long. The game-changing Trade Deadline acquisition hit .533 (8-for-15) with two homers and seven walks. He drove in seven of the Dodgers' 20 runs (35 percent), had 16 of their 64 total bases (25 percent), with a .682 on-base percentage and a 1.067 slugging percentage. He extended his postseason records with his 28th homer, 12th in the LCS and has an RBI in nine straight games.
He did this with virtually no protection, as Martin and Andre Ethier combined to go 2-for-17 in the cleanup spot, and they weren't on base when he came up either, going 5-for-22 in the No. 2 spot.
Loney hit .438 with a pair of RBIs and Matt Kemp and Casey Blake hit .333, but Martin hit .118 and rookie Blake DeWitt was 1-for-13 with three double-play grounders, two of those Wednesday. The Dodgers were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position in the final game.
"We may have been a little tense tonight, which is understandable with the [Game 4 loss] the other night and facing Cole Hamels," Torre said. "We needed patience and he's probably a tough guy to face. We were a little overanxious. I don't know if it's a hangover from Game 4, but you go out and face an elimination game, we may have been a little overanxious. I've managed experienced clubs in the same boat that showed the same personality."