Hernandez belts 3 HRs; Dodgers win NL pennant
CHICAGO — By the time Enrique Hernandez stepped to the plate in the ninth inning on Thursday night, Game 5 of the National League Championship Series was already a blur.
By the time the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated in a champagne-soaked room after clinching their first pennant since 1988, Hernandez — who had sparked an 11-1 victory over the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs with three home runs — was still foggy on the details on how the Dodgers had arrived in their celebratory moment.
Hernandez, whose three homers included a grand slam, drove in seven runs, providing Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw with more than enough offensive support to land Los Angeles in the World Series for the first time in 29 years.
“It’s unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “It’s amazing.”
Los Angeles closed out the NL Championship Series in five games. The Dodgers will face either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in the World Series, with Game 1 scheduled for Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Staked to an early comfortable lead, Kershaw (1-0) allowed one run, three hits and a walk while striking out five in six innings.
Hernandez capped the scoring in the ninth inning with a two-run blast as the Los Angeles left fielder tied a league championship series record with his seven RBIs.
“Tonight was his night to shine, and Clayton started the night and throwing a gem,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “For him to start and pitch the way he did, and for (Hernandez) to have a huge night — three homers tonight — just providing so much energy for us, and we fed off that tonight.”
The Dodgers scored first for the first time in the series and jumped out to a 9-0 lead after three innings. Hernandez followed up his second-inning solo home run with a grand slam in the third after the Dodgers loaded the bases off Cubs starter Jose Quintana with four straight hits.
After Quintana was lifted in the third, reliever Hector Rondon struck out Logan Forsythe for the first out of the inning. Hernandez then lifted his second homer of the night into the basket above the right field wall to break the game open.
Justin Turner, who was named NLCS co-most valuable player along with Chris Taylor, also had an RBI single in the inning.
“It’s a different guy every single night,” Turner said of the multiple contributions the Dodgers got offensively. “Literally, (it’s) a different guy in the lineup making that big swing.”
Quintana surrendered six runs on six hits in two-plus innings. He walked one and fanned one as the Cubs’ season ended in the NLCS for the second time in three years.
“We started out with a target on our back last year...but we were able to go through the whole thing,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “(We) got the World Series under our belt. (We) came back this year and (were) met with some kind of mental adversity is the best way I could describe it. It’s baseball adversity.
“I thought we did a great job of overcoming.”
The Dodgers padded their lead in the fourth on Forsythe’s two-run double off John Lackey.
Kris Bryant finally got the Cubs on the board in the fourth inning when he homered after Kershaw had held Chicago without a hit for 3 1/3 innings.
By then, the Dodgers had built too great of a cushion and never relented until closer Kenley Jansen closed out the win in the ninth with the Dodgers leading by 10 runs. A short time later, the Dodgers celebrated their World Series return after winning for the seventh time in eight games in the postseason.
“We have four more wins to go,” Kershaw said. “But we’ve heard 1988 for so long in L.A., it feels good to say that we’re getting to go to the World Series in 2017.”
NOTES: Dodgers 3B Justin Turner extended his postseason streak of reaching safely to eight games with a RBI single in the second inning. Turner reached safely in 23 of his past 24 postseason games since Oct. 9, 2015. ... Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw earned his sixth career postseason victory, which tied Burt Hooton for the most in franchise history. ... Cubs president Theo Epstein defended manager Joe Maddon, who was taking heat for some of his decision-making in managing the bullpen during the NLCS. “It’s not manager against manager,” Epstein said before Thursday’s game. “That stuff just gets under the microscope so much this time of year. It’s (about) players performing.” ... Former Cubs catcher David Ross, who was a member of the 2016 World Series championship team, threw out the ceremonial first pitch Thursday.