The only thing missing was Vin Scully on the call, as the Dodgers met on the field as one, the fielders converging on the mound, the others leaping over the railings of the cramped Wrigley Field dugout onto the diamond. Inside the flock of Dodgers, a group headed to the World Series for the first time since 1988, Clayton Kershaw blended into the pack, relishing an 11-1 victory over the defending World Series Champion Cubs. Los Angeles clinched the National League pennant in five NLCS games, and are headed to the World Series for the first time in twenty-eight years.
Chris Taylor started the game with a nine-pitch at-bat against Cubs starter Jose Quintana. Taylor hung around after Quintana picked up two strikes in order to take the free pass. Two batters later, Cody Bellinger turned on a 93-mph fastball and doubled into the right-field corner. Taylor sprinted home. Bellinger took third on the throw, but finished the inning stranded.
Kershaw looked formidable from the start. He snapped a pair of curveballs to fan Cubs outfielder Albert Almora, Jr. His fastball touched 96 mph. He induced a pair of groundouts from third baseman Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, the heart of the Cubs lineup, to end the inning. When Kershaw retook the mound in the second, his team’s lead had doubled. Hernandez blitzed Quintana on the first pitch of the top of the inning. Hernandez tossed his bat into the grass as he watched a solo shot clear the fence in right.
An inning later, the Dodgers forced Quintana off the mound. Taylor led off with a double. Justin Turner drove him home with a single. After singles by Bellinger and Yasiel Puig loaded the bases, Cubs manager Joe Maddon had no choice. He opened up his bullpen, a group of relievers as volatile as nitroglycerine in the sun.
The desperation of Maddon only went so far. He chose Hector Rondon, rather than pitchers like Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks, who might have started later in the series. Rondon flipped a slider over the plate to Hernandez and saw it soar toward right field. Hernandez pumped his first when the baseball landed in the basket above the ivy. The slam freed Kershaw to attack the Cubs. A seven-run lead expanded to nine in the fourth, when Logan Forsythe stroked a two-run double off Chicago veteran John Lackey.
By the fourth inning, the Cubs had still not recorded a hit. That ended when Bryant launched a first-pitch fastball deep to left. The solo homer ended Kershaw’s bid for a shutout, but he pitched around a single to complete the inning. He froze second baseman Javier Baez with an outside fastball for a strikeout in the fifth.
Kyle Schwarber, the hulking Cubs outfielder, tested the spryness of Kershaw’s back in the sixth. Schwarber dropped a bunt on the left side of the infield. Kershaw slid across the grass for the baseball, but Schwarber beat the throw. The ruse did not deter Kershaw. Bryant hit a sharp grounder into Turner’s glove at third. Rizzo hit a soft liner into Forsythe’s glove at second.
The game seemed lost for the Cubs from the outset. They simply couldn’t match the Dodgers hitting power, and they definitely were no match for Kershaw.
There would be no 2004 Red Sox-esque Cinderella Story for the Cubs this year, as the clock struck midnight on Wrigley Field. This year seems to belong to Los Angeles.
The Dodgers advance to face the winner of Astros vs. Yankees, who play ALCS Game 6 tomorrow.