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(Reuters) - The Los Angeles Dodgers turned their season around with a remarkable summer surge but fell one step shy of the World Series after being eliminated by St. Louis in Game Six of the National League Championship Series on Friday.
The Dodgers halted their slide and reversed direction by winning 42 of 50 games from June 22, sparked by the arrival of talented young Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig, and went on to win the NL West with ease.
"It's disappointing for all of us," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly after Friday's 9-0 defeat that sealed a 4-2 Cardinals' triumph in the best-of-seven series.
"We put a lot of time in ... it's what you play for, to make that next step.
"I'm really proud of my club. I felt like they hung in all year long. These guys have a lot of fun but they do get down to business. They do love to play."
Injuries hampered the Dodgers, who were without slugging outfielder Matt Kemp while hard-hitting shortstop Hanley Ramirez struggled with a hairline fracture of a rib when he was hit by a pitch earlier in the series.
Despite the line-up issues, the Dodgers were still stung by the loss, which came with ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
"You don't know how many times you are going to get an opportunity like this," said second baseman Mark Ellis.
"Going to spring training next year you'll feel like you have a good chance to win. But being here in this moment you feel like this was your opportunity."
Another of the quiet voices in the clubhouse belonged to centerfielder Andre Ethier, who was also slowed by injury.
"It's disappointing to be standing here now knowing that a lot our efforts came up short of what our goal was, which is to win a World Series," he said.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez preferred to look ahead.
"The only thing is to be hungry next year," said Gonzalez. "We got this close this year, and be in the same spot next year but at the other end of it."
Catcher A.J. Ellis said he would miss being around the team now that the season was over.
"The sad thing whenever a season ends, you know that the entire group of guys won't be together next year," he added.
"It's the last time all these guys will be in this room together and it hurts."
Writing by Larry Fine; Editing by Peter Rutherford