The iconic words of Vin Scully were first spoken 29 years ago, the last time the Los Angeles Dodgers were in the World Series: "In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened."
After nearly three decades, the wait is finally over — the Dodgers are going back to the World Series.
Enrique Hernandez hit three home runs, including a grand slam, as the Dodgers punched their ticket to the Fall Classic, defeating the Chicago Cubs, 11-1, in Game 5 of the NLCS on Thursday night at Wrigley Field.
U.S. & World
In 1988, the last time the Dodgers went to the World Series, Clayton Kershaw was just seven months old. Twenty-nine years later, he was on the mound when they won the pennant.
"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," Kershaw said after the victory. "With four more wins, hopefully we get to bring one home."
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Kershaw (2-0), threw six innings, allowing just one run on three hits with one walk and five strikeouts in the third potential-clinching start in his postseason career.
In those games, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is a perfect 3-0 when he takes the mound with a chance to advance his team to the next round.
"To get to be on the mound tonight and get to be going to the World Series on the same night, it's a special thing," Kershaw said. "Who knows how many times I'm going to get to go to the World Series. I know more than anybody how hard it is to get there. So, I'm definitely not taking this one for granted."
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Since 2013, Kershaw had only gotten one run of support in four total starts in the NLCS over the course of his career. In his only two starts in 2017, he got 16 runs of support.
"That's a testament to this team and what we stand for," Kershaw said of the support from the offense. "As a starting pitcher, when you get seven runs, your job is to get them back in the dugout as fast as possible."
In order to end the drought, the Dodgers needed to go through the Cubs, the reigning World Series Champions, a team that slayed their own demons only one year prior. Los Angeles wasted little time dispatching the champs.
After a nine-pitch lead-off walk to Chris Taylor to start the game, Cody Bellinger roped a double down the right field line, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
"What [Taylor] has done for our lineup all year long, settling into the lead-off spot, getting on base, hitting balls over the fence. He's a dynamic player and table-setter," said teammate Justin Turner, who was named Co-MVP of the NLCS along with Taylor. "When he goes, we usually go as a team. I think you guys saw that here in the postseason."
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One inning later, Hernandez started off the second inning swinging, as he jumped all over a first-pitch fastball from Cubs' starter Jose Quintana, hitting it to straightaway center for a solo home run.
Hernandez wasn't finished. After an RBI single from Turner gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, Quintana loaded the bases before leaving the game for Hector Rondon.
Once again, the Puerto Rican was swinging on the first pitch, and this time, Hernandez sent a slider into the basket in right-center for a grand slam home run.
"I blacked out," Hernandez said of the fourth grand slam ever hit in Dodgers' postseason history. "I can't even describe it you know. I was thinking the entire game, 'Man, this is unbelievable.'"
Hernandez not only sent the Dodgers to the World Series with his bat, he also became the first Dodger since Adrian Gonzalez in 2013 to hit multiple homers in a postseason game.
"I don't remember much of the game," Hernandez admitted. "The whole game is a blur. I remember the first two, but I definitely don't remember the last one. It's awesome!"
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As Wrigley Field fell silent as the shrouded dead, one voice could be heard — that of Hernandez's father, Enrique Hernandez Sr., one year removed from a life-threatening battle with cancer, fresh off an evacuation from his homeland because of Hurricane Maria. Despite it all, he stood and cheered.
He just watched his son have the game of his life, in the biggest moment of his career.
"Honestly, I couldn't wait for this game to end so I could give my dad a big old hug," Hernandez said as he fought back tears. "Everything that he's been through the last year or so, and everything he went through for me to be here on this stage right now means the world to me."
Quintana (0-1) lasted only two innings, surrendering six runs on six hits with one walk and one strikeout in his fourth start of the postseason with the Cubs.
"Quintana was a great addition," said Cubs manager Joe Maddon after the game. "[The Dodgers] know what it feels like coming off last year, we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot."
John Lackey entered the game in the fourth inning for the Cubs and served up a two-run double to Logan Forsythe that gave Los Angeles a 9-0 lead.
The two innings of relief may have been the last ever seen of Lackey as the 38-year-old's contract is up at the end of the season. He could be leaning toward retirement at the end of the year.
"John and I go way back," Maddon said. "John and I were together with the Angels in the 2002 World Series team. So it's really special for me with John. Hopefully it's not his last year, but if it is, having that chance to be with him in that moment is pretty special for me."
Kris Bryant hit his first home run of the postseason in the bottom of the fourth, a laser beam off Kershaw over the scoreboard in left field, for the Cubs' only run of the game.
The Cubs became the first team in Major League history to score all of their runs as home runs in a series that went at least five games.
"Every year is different," Maddon said on why his offense wasn't able to replicate the same success as last year. "We have all these incredible numbers from last year, but every year is different."
Just for good measure, Hernandez hit his third home run of the game off Mike Montgomery in the top of ninth, to put the exclamation point on his historical night.
"I may have had a great game, but this is not about me, this is about this team," Hernandez said, as his teammates celebrated around him in the winning locker room. "Tonight it was me, but every night its someone different coming up big for us. Luckily enough, tonight it was me."
Hernandez is just the ninth player in MLB history to have three homers in a postseason game, joining like the likes of Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols.
Hernandez finished the game three-for-four with three home runs and a league championship record seven RBIs.
To put that in perspective, the Cubs scored eight runs in the entire series.
"I blacked out and four hours later I had three homers and seven RBI," Hernandez said. "There's a very big God up there that blessed me tonight, and grandpa, I appreciate it because I know you had something to do with it."
Earlier in the season, Hernandez lost his grandfather and left the team to fly to Puerto Rico to be with his family.
"Kiké told me before the game, 'Hey, I've got your back tonight,'" Kershaw said. "He said that before I even went out and took the mound. Then he goes and hits three home runs."
Kenta Maeda, Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen pitched the final three innings of the game as the Dodgers bullpen set an NLCS record with 17 scoreless innings of relief.
"We wanted the defending champs," Jansen said after the game. "We know how much it sucks to lose here and see the fans enjoy it in front of us. We wanted to make a statement. We wanted to come here and we wanted to win in front of them. It's not over yet. Hopefully, we can bring the championship back home."
The Dodgers' pen has a scoreless innings streak of 23, a new MLB postseason record, surpassing the 1977 New York Yankees.
However, the rest of the game was a mere formality as both teams went through the motions before the Dodgers popped champagne — aged 29 years — in the visiting clubhouse.
The victory earned the Dodgers their 22nd National League pennant, the second most in league history behind only their rivals, the Giants, who have 23.
Nearly one year ago, the Cubs clinched their first World Series berth since 1945 against these same Dodgers. That night, as the mob of adoring fans celebrated in Wrigleyville, the Dodgers team buses were unable to leave, so the players had to wait over two hours in the visiting locker room.
During that time, the Dodgers sat and stewed, thinking about this exact moment that could occur one year later, and how great it would be to beat the Cubs on their own field to advance to the World Series.
Revenge is, indeed, sweet.
The Dodgers advance to the World Series, awaiting either the Houston Astros or New York Yankees for Game 1 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 24.