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10/16/08 3:54 AM EST

Dodgers stunned by 'quick' exit

Players proud of effort, looking forward to next season

LOS ANGELES -- Russell Martin slumped down in his chair with his hands enveloping his bearded face minutes after his Dodgers had been eliminated from the National League Championship Series in Wednesday's Game 5, raw emotion emanating from his locker along with the realization that this magical season had ended just like that.

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Martin and his teammates had battled since Spring Training in February for a chance to reach the World Series, and all of a sudden, those dreams were shot down three victories short, faster than it took Shane Victorino to get to a ball in the gap.

"You put in so much hard work throughout the whole year to get in a position to win, and it just doesn't happen," Martin said. "It's a lot of days in a row of hard work. We gave it a go; I'm proud of everybody here. We battled with our heads up, and we got beat.

"It's baseball. You work really hard to get to a certain point, and then it's over, that quick."

Added Andre Ethier, "It's a punch-in-the-gut feeling."

Instead of heading home to rest up for a Thursday afternoon flight to Philadelphia for Game 6, Dodgers players said their final goodbyes to teammates who have been their brothers for the past eight months.

First baseman James Loney fought emotion as he spoke with the media, saying he is not satisfied with just reaching the NLCS and is counting the days until Spring Training commences.

"Hopefully time goes by fast," Loney said.

The Dodgers pride themselves on being a classy organization, and that showed when manager Joe Torre arrived in full uniform to the Phillies' clubhouse celebration to congratulate his counterpart, Charlie Manuel, and tell him he's rooting for Philadelphia to go all the way.

Torre stayed busy after the game, as he also joined Ethier in waving to fans to thank them for their support this season, which Nomar Garciaparra did as well before exiting the dugout for the clubhouse.

As Torre reflected on his exhilarating first year in Los Angeles, he said he found out managing could be fun again after a tumultuous conclusion to his 12 seasons in New York.

"I had that old feeling going into the postseason, that excitement and nervousness and all that stuff, which was good, because when that stops being a part of it, then you know you should be doing something else or nothing at all," Torre said. "But I think overall it was very satisfying to reintroduce myself to the old league that I was in for so many years."

Free-agent-to-be Manny Ramirez, who may have played his last home game at Chavez Ravine, said he enjoyed many great times in his 2 1/2 months reviving the Dodgers' once-proud franchise by leading it to the NLCS for the first time in 20 years.

"I think we played great, and everybody gave a great effort, and nobody pointed fingers at each other, and they played better than us," Ramirez said. "The better team always wins, so they're a better team. We lost our opportunity to win the game, we came up short, and that's it."

Matt Kemp -- a key player in the Dodgers' future core at the plate along with Martin, Loney and Ethier -- said he was impressed with the fight the Dodgers showed all season after the club spent five months out of first place before finally taking control of the NL West in September.

Then, Los Angeles went into Wrigley Field and promptly swept the heavily favored Cubs in what ended up being a lopsided series.

"You work hard, you get this far, you want to go all the way, but things happen," Kemp said. "I'm proud of the way we played this year, and hopefully we just take that into next year and move on further."

Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who was shown on DodgerVision waving his rally towel to pump up the crowd during the game, addressed the fans who stayed late to soak up every last second of the whirlwind 2008 season with an optimistic message to cheer up the diehards.

"I'm sorry we couldn't give you the championship you so richly deserved," Lasorda said. "You are the greatest fans in all of baseball. All I can tell you is: Wait til next year.

"We'll do it next year."

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.