CHICAGO (AP) — When it was over, when Los Angeles had finally secured another trip to the World Series and Enrique Hernandez’s three big swings had become a part of playoff lore, the emotional utilityman just wanted to give his dad a big hug.
It was one sweet performance for Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw and the rest of the Dodgers.
Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs’ title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series.
“It was amazing,” Hernandez said. “This team is awesome.”
It sure is.
After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers after they led the majors with 104 wins during the regular season. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff, and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball’s most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles’ last championship in 1988.
“Every night it is a different guy,” Turner said.
It was Hernandez on Thursday.
Hernandez became the fourth player with a three-homer game in an LCS, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS). Hernandez’s seven RBIs tied a postseason record shared by four other players, who all did it in a Division Series.
Troy O’Leary was the previous player to have seven RBIs in a playoff game, for Boston at Cleveland in the 1999 ALDS.
It was a stunning display for a player with 28 career homers who remains concerned about his native Puerto Rico, which is recovering from a devastating hurricane. He delivered a historic performance in front of his father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., who was diagnosed with a blood cancer related to leukemia in December 2015, but got word last November that he was in remission.
“For me to be able to come here and do something like this is pretty special,” said Hernandez, who also goes by Kiké. “My body’s here, but my mind’s kind of back home. It’s hard being away from home with what’s going on.
“All I want to do right now is go to my dad and give him a big hug.”
Kershaw will be on the mound again when the Dodgers host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 of the ALCS at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers. Los Angeles is 6-12 in the World Series, including one victory over New York while the team was still in Brooklyn.