Going into Thursday night’s Game 5, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon arguably needed seven or eight innings out of José Quintana. Wade Davis wasn’t available after tossing 48 pitches the night before. Jon Lester stated he wouldn’t be available in relief. The options Maddon instead had to choose from—John Lackey, Héctor Rondón, Mike Montgomery and so on—didn’t inspire much confidence.
Therefore, the Cubs needed Quintana—whose first 11.1 postseason innings produced a 1.59 ERA with 11 strikeouts and generated an opponent’s slash line of just .132/.205/.158 (.363 OPS)—to nearly go the distance.
Instead, they got two innings out of him. Instead, Quintana faced just 13 batters. His final line: two innings, six hits and six runs (all earned).
But before we get to the unrelenting offense, let’s not forget about Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers gave him plenty of offense early, which isn’t typically the case. Then the best pitcher on the planet went to work—tossing six innings of three-hit ball, striking out five while walking one and only allowing one run—a dinger off the bat of Kris Bryant.
Everyone for LA did their job Thursday night.
Now we assume there will be better days for the Cubs again. This team isn’t just going away next season. Or even the season after that. But the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t messing around right now. And in case we forgot what made them the best team during the regular season, Game 5 was a harsh, relentless reminder. Though, it didn’t come without one big surprise: Enrique Hernandez.
The Dodgers struck early, with Cody Bellinger doubling home Chris Taylor in the first inning—the latter reaching on a lead-off walk. They added another in the second when Kiké Hernandez hit his first home run of the evening—a solo shot to center. Then came the third, when things truly spiraled out of control.
First, Taylor—after leading off with a double—came around to score on a Justin Turner single. Then Bellinger singled. So did Puig. And that was it for Quintana. In came Rondón with the bases full of Dodgers and Logan Forsythe at the plate. At this point, the Cubs are thinking ‘If we get out of this with only one more run…’ and then, Rondón struck Forsythe out.
An ideal start. Suddenly, you might be just a groundball away from emerging unscathed.
Kiké Hernandez wasn’t having any of that:
His second home run of the night, a grand slam to right, may very well have been the knockout punch. And it came in just the third inning. Wrigley Field was lifeless, but their misery wasn’t over yet. The Dodgers added two more in the fourth. Then, another couple in the ninth—on Kiké’s third (and final) home run of the evening. 11-1 was the score, and that’s how it would finish:
Sometimes, baseball is screwy.
Sometimes, a utility player like Kiké Hernandez joins the likes of Babe Ruth, Albert Pujols, George Brett and Reggie Jackson—among others—who have hit three home runs in a postseason game. That list also includes José Altuve, Pablo Sandoval, Adrián Beltré and Bob Robertson—not to mention… Adam Kennedy?
Believe it. Baseball is a strange beast. Either you love it or you don’t. On Thursday night, Dodgers’ fans got to love it a little more than usual.
That’s because they’re heading to their first World Series since 1988.