The defining moment of the Dodgers fate in reaching the Fall Classic came off the bat of their red bearded third baseman, Justin Turner, whose three-run walk-off blast in game two of the NLCS signaled the end of a 28-year old drought.
If you needed any more clues that this team was destined for something far greater than an NLDS title please quit your detective day job because you’re not cracking any more cases.
On a chilly night in Chicago, the ball club boasting the best regular season record in the Majors mauled the reigning champs 11-1 with their ace on the mound, and a masterful manager’s rejiggered line-up.
Clayton Kershaw’s previous postseason woes have been painful to watch, but tonight was a throwback Thursday for the ages. Staked to a 9-1 lead lifted a lot of pressure, to say the least, however the southpaw was formidable from the start.
His curves were curving, his slider slid and his velocity reached a vintage 96.
Kershaw had not pitched at Wrigley since Game 6 of last year’s NLCS, when the Cubs jumped on him in the first inning and tagged him for five runs in all.
This time around, his buddies had his back. Chris Taylor led off with a nine-pitch walk against starter Jose Quintana. Two batters later, Cody Bellinger drilled a 93-mph fastball into the right-field corner for an RBI double, took third on the throw and left stranded to end the inning.
In the top of the second Enrique Hernandez, donning a Dodger cap inscribed with sentiments to his native Puerto Rico, put LA up by two with a first pitch solo shot to center.
An inning later, the Dodgers made quick work of Quintana. Taylor led off with a double, Justin Turner singled him home and after Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig delivered consecutive singles to load the bases, Joe Maddon was forced to reach into his not very deep bullpen, the bane of his managerial existence.
That possibility turned into a pipe dream when Hernandez ripped Rendon’s first offering over the right-field ivy covered wall, giving Kershaw a seven-run lead and enough breathing room to last what seemed to be a lifetime. After the Cubs were retired in order in the home half, Chicago veteran John Lackey replaced Rendon in the fourth where more of the same ensued. Logan Forsythe belted a double to left and seven runs bloated to nine.
The Cub’s first hit came via a home run by Kris Bryant in the fourth inning. Kershaw continued to cruise through the line-up and was lifted for reliever Kenta Maeda after tossing six spectacular innings. The 29-year old Texan went out in style, surrendering one run on three hits, striking out five.
Hernandez had one last hurrah in the ninth, a two-run shot to center to become the tenth batter in Major League history to do so, adding one for the record books with his seven LCS RBI.
Also, it couldn’t be more fitting for the prolific fill in, Charlie Culberson, recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma to replace Corey Seager, the injured reigning NL rookie of the year, to record the final out.