Dodgers Advance To World Series Over Cubs

(CNN)- For the first time since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers will play in the World Series after defeating the Chicago Cubs, 11-1, in Game 5 of the 2017 National League Championship Series at Wrigley Field.

Enrique Hernandez was the offensive hero for Los Angeles with three home runs and seven RBI, including a grand slam in the top of the third inning. Clayton Kershaw exorcised his playoff demons with one run allowed on three hits with five strikeouts over six innings to lead the Dodgers to their first NL pennant in 29 years.

Kershaw’s playoff shortcomings have been well-documented. Coming into Thursday’s game, the three-time NL Cy Young winner had a 4.57 ERA with 15 home runs allowed in 100.1 innings over 20 starts in the postseason.

 

“I wouldn’t say that the pressure is on us,” he said (via ESPN.com’s Bradford Doolittle). “I think that we’re in a pretty good spot. We’ve got our No. 1 pitcher going tomorrow, and we’ve got two of the guys at the back end rested. I can’t speak to their mindset, but I still like the position we’re in.”

Los Angeles’ No. 1 pitcher didn’t disappoint one year after taking the loss in Game 6 of the NLCS when the Cubs clinched their spot in the World Series.

The Dodgers gave Kershaw a cushion to work with right out of the gate on Cody Bellinger’s RBI double in the top of the first inning. Hernandez extended the lead to 2-0 with a solo homer in the top of the second inning.

 

With uncertainty about where the team stood heading into the postseason because of that rough stretch, the Dodgers have gone 7-1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and Cubs to move within four wins of the franchise’s seventh World Series title.

In five games against the Cubs, Dodgers pitching allowed a total of eight runs. Game 4 was the only time Chicago’s offense managed to score more than two runs in a game.

The story of Chicago’s disappearing lineup sits up there with the bullpen shortcomings as the main reasons the 2016 World Series champions missed an opportunity to repeat.

The only game this postseason the Cubs scored more than three runs was Game 5 of the NLDS against the Washington Nationals when they pushed across nine runs in that memorable series-clincher.

Per Ryan Marx and Jonathon Berlin of the Chicago Tribune, prior to Game 4 Wednesday, the Cubs’ average of 5.3 hits per playoff game ranked last out of 96 playoff teams and their 2.6 runs per game ranked 93rd since 1995.

This offseason is an important one for Chicago’s front office. Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis are the Cubs’ two big free agents, but the bullpen showed its lack of depth in front of Davis this postseason, which will need to be addressed.

While the Cubs are left to wonder what went wrong in October, the Dodgers’ magical season will keep going with Game 1 of the World Series against the New York Yankees or Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium on Oct. 24.

In all likelihood, Kershaw will be the one throwing the first pitch in that game with a regular four days off before the Fall Classic begins.