Hernandez, Kershaw more than enough for NL champion Dodgers
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Enrique Hernandez told Clayton Kershaw he’d have his back.
Did he ever.
Hernandez slugged three home runs, including a grand slam, and piled up a League Championship Series-record seven RBI, and Kershaw pitched six strong innings of one-run ball Thursday in an 11-1 thumping of the Cubs that sent the Dodgers to the World Series for the first time since 1988.
Celebrating on Wrigley’s infield grass, where they watched the Cubs party after beating them in the NLCS last year, the Dodgers denied the Cubs’ bid to return to the World Series in convincing fashion, winning in five games and turning the elimination game into a rout early.
“I’m at a loss for words,’’ said Kershaw, who took the loss in last season’s Game 6 Cubs clincher. “I never thought in a million years I’d get to play in a World Series. We’ve got four more [wins] to go, but right now it’s tough to sink in.’’
After this win, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was quick to cite Kershaw going to the World Series as his top source of joy. He wasted no time announcing the three-time Cy Young winner as his Game 1 starter in the World Series, which begins Tuesday against the Yankees or Astros.
“There are so many things [about this pennant] I could touch on,’’ Roberts said. “The first thing that comes to mind is Clayton and how long he has been a Dodger and wanted this championship.
“Clayton threw a gem, and [Hernandez] provided so much energy for us. We fed off that.’’
Denied a series sweep the night before, the Dodgers didn’t panic, knowing Kershaw would take the ball, his nagging reputation as a so-so pitcher in the postseason a non-factor for them. This was Kershaw’s 21st postseason appearance and his 17th start, and he took a 5-7 record and 4.63 ERA into it, although the Dodgers had won six of his previous seven starts. Kershaw’s sixth postseason win tied Burt Hooton for most in Dodgers history, however.
“Having him take the baseball, you knew he wasn’t going to be denied,’’ Roberts said.
Kershaw allowed three hits and one run on Kris Bryant’s solo homer. He worked ahead in the count early, struck out five and walked one, throwing 89 pitches, 60 for strikes.
“This is one of the best environments to play in, and we knew the Cubs would bring their ‘A’ game,’’ Kershaw said. “But you can’t say enough about our offense. Hernandez told me right before the game, ‘I got your back today.’ And he came through. That’s what this team is all about. A different superstar every night. It’s a special group.’’
While Justin Turner and Chris Taylor were named co-MVPs of the series, Hernandez and Kershaw were the stars on this night.
These are emotional times for Hernandez. His father, who has cancer, was in attendance. And Hernandez, who was born in Puerto Rico, also has been heavily involved in hurricane relief efforts.
He was the fourth Dodger to hit a grand slam in the postseason, joining Ron Cey and Dusty Baker in 1977 and James Loney in 2008.
“Every night, it’s a different guy,’’ Hernandez said. “Luckily enough, I was able to be that guy. I kind of blacked out the entire game, and four hours later, I have three homers and seven RBI.
“I can’t even describe it. I was thinking the entire game, ‘Man, this is unbelievable.’ ’’
Hernandez is the fourth player with a three-homer game in a League Championship Series, joining Bob Robertson (1971 NLCS), George Brett (1978 ALCS) and Adam Kennedy (2002 ALCS).
“I can’t wait till this game is over so I can give my dad a big hug,’’ he said. “Everything he has done for me means the world to me, and he’s going through a hard time. For me to give him a little bit to cheer about is amazing. There is a very big God up there that blessed me tonight.’’
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.