Clayton Kershaw celebrates in the Dodgers clubhouse after defeating the Cubs 11-1 in Game 5 of the NLCS (Getty Images).

Kershaw, Hernandez power Dodgers to World Series

SHARE Kershaw, Hernandez power Dodgers to World Series
SHARE Kershaw, Hernandez power Dodgers to World Series

Clayton Kershaw’s mediocre postseason record has been hashed out and rehashed, discussed over cold drinks and hot coffee, talk radio and the printed word — as well it should. Arguably the best pitcher of his era, the 29-year-old Dodgers lefty hasn’t been that great in playoff games.

What’s up with that?

With yet another chance to move the narrative in a fresh direction, Kershaw was splendid Thursday night at Wrigley Field where the Dodgers, leading three games to one, went looking early to eliminate the Cubs from the NLCS. With mammoth run support flowing his way in each of the first four innings — 1, 1, 5 and 2 runs — Kershaw had it made but he didn’t let his guard down, not allowing a hit until Kris Bryant homered with one out in the fourth. He would log six innings of one-run ball before calling it a night, a whopping 9-1 lead in his pocket and a celebratory beverage in his line of vision.

Kershaw’s goal for the night? Putting the Dodgers in the World Series for the first time since 1988 and burying the franchise’s 0-for-4 run in the NLCS since 2008. He also set out to spruce up his own postseason reputation.

Enrique Hernandez hit three homers and drove in seven runs to power the Dodgers’ lineup, Kershaw provided the strong start for his sixth postseason win and the Dodgers bullpen finished a flawless series with three innings of scoreless ball in an 11-1 victory that eliminated the Cubs.

This was Kershaw’s 21st postseason appearance and his 17th start, and he carried into it a 5-7 record and 4.63 ERA, although the Dodgers had won six of his previous seven starts. Because of the numbers, the feeling around Wrigley Field before the game was that the Cubs had a good shot Kershaw, even though he led the NL in ERA (2.31) for the fifth time in his career and led in wins with 18 and a 6.73 strikeouts to walks ratio.

There’s was just the postseason thing. In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks he allowed four runs over 6 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking none, in a Dodgers victory. In Game 1 of the NLCS, a 5-2 LA victory over the Cubs, he gave up two runs over five innings.

On the heels of six innings of three-hit ball with five strikeouts and one walk against the Cubs, Kershaw was headed for more postseason opps in the World Series against the winner of the Astros-Yankees clash in the ALCS.

Against the Cubs, as he set out to knock down a win for himself and finish off a 4-1 series wins, Kershaw pitched with a lead from the first inning on. Cody Bellinger doubled in a run against Jose Quintana in the first, Enrique Hernanedez hit Quintana’s first pitch of the second inning for a homer and then the Dodgers blew the game open in the third on Hernandez’ grand slam, also on the first pitch of his at-bat.

The Dodgers jumped over the rail and spilled out of the dugout, leading 7-0 and starting their NLCS celebration without the champagne. With Kershaw pitching and a bullpen that hadn’t allowed a run in the series as backup, there was no way the Cubs — struggling to hit for most of the postseason — were coming back.

Kershaw, who lost the Cubs’ 5-0 NLCS clincher in Game 6 at Wrigley Field last season, wasn’t going to be give this one up. He worked ahead in the count on every Cub his first time through their lineup except for Ben Zobrist, who got ahead in the count 2-0 but would strike out looking at a 3-2 pitch. Addison Russell hit the first pitch and flied out to right. Kershaw threw 89 efficient pitches, 60 for strikes.

After failing to complete a four-game sweep Wednesday night, Dodgers players expressed confidence knowing Kershaw was taking the ball in Game 5. Manager Dave Roberts echoed the same thing Thursday afternoon.

“Today we’ve got our guy going on the mound,’’ Roberts said. “He knows that it’s not all contingent upon him. We’ve still got to catch it. We’ve still got to get guys on base and score runs. But to be in a situation like this, our guys are joking around, we’ve got music blaring in the clubhouse.

“I like where we’re at.”

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