LOS ANGELES – Losing to the Cubs in the 2016 National League Championship Series is a source of motivation for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Getting past the team that stopped them from going to the World Series added a little something extra.
Watching the Cubs get their World Series rings at a Wrigley Field ceremony in April when the Dodgers happened to be in town to play them? Now that could really give someone the gears, but most of the Dodgers didn’t see it.
Not that it wasn’t an annoyance.
“I was in the locker room, yes,’’ Dodgers left fielder and Game 2 cleanup hitter Kike Hernandez said. “I didn’t see it. Nobody cared about that. It was cold. And it was an unnecessarily long ceremony, so. We were inside chilling, staying warm.’’
“You tell me, was it fun?” Hernandez asked a Chicago reporter.
“OK, well I wasn’t, either.’’
Manager Dave Roberts said at the time it didn’t do much for him.
“Is it good to see, inspiring? No,” Roberts said.
In any event, getting clocked by the Cubs four games to two after leading the series two games to one left a bad taste in Hernandez’ mouth.
“Being two wins away from the World Series and tasting how close we were,’’ Hernandez said. “I don’t know if we sat back and relaxed and felt like we were in the World Series but we didn’t take care of business. To taste how close we were and failing again, it hurt.
“We were two wins away from getting to the World Series and they just manhandled us in the next three games.’’
Hernandez had to blush a little in Game 2 when, batting with runners on second and third and two outs, he trotted all the way to first base thinking he had walked against Jon Lester. Problem was, the count was 3 and 2. He returned to the plate and flied out to right, leaving the game scoreless.
Hernandez didn’t know the count but he is sure the 104-win Dodgers are better than last year.
“That means we should get to the World Series and we should win it,’’ he said.
There’s still much work to be done to bring LA its first title since Kirk Gibson’s 1988 Dodgers.
“We only had the best record in baseball and we won the division series,’’ Hernandez said. “Either one doesn’t mean anything. We came to spring training thinking about winning the World Series. Nothing has changed yet.’’
The Dodgers will have to get past the Cubs without All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, who is out with a back injury, although “he says he feels considerably better,’’ Roberts said. “He says he feels “normalish.” That’s, I think, a good thing to hear.”
No one is totally ruling out Seager in the series, although the Dodgers would have to put a player on the DL and the player they put on the DL would not be eligible for the World Series. If Seager tries playing and has to be replaced on the roster because of injury, he’d be ineligible for the World Series. Dodgers president Andrew Friedman, the Rays general manager when Joe Maddon was manager there, is known to be as shrewd as they come tip-toeing around roster maneuvers.
“Did you expect anything different?” Maddon said Sunday, cutting off a question about Seager’s updated status.
Asked if he expects the Dodgers to find a way to get him on the roster, Maddon, smiling broadly, said, “We’ll just see how that plays out … We’ll see how it all plays out.’’
Seager’s replacement at shortstop, meanwhile, continued to more than hold his own. Charlie Culberson doubled leading off the fifth inning against Jon Lester and scored the Dodgers first run and tying on Justin Turner’s single through the right side in the fifth inning. Culberson had a sacrifice fly, double and run scored in the Dodgers’ 5-2 win in Game 1.