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3 Hernandez homers propel Dodgers

Enrique Hernandez  of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after hitting  one of three home runs against the Chicago Cubs. AFP
 

LA enters World Series, faces either New York or Houston

CHICAGO – Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.

Fueled by a home run trilogy from their emotional utilityman, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.

Hernandez homered three times and drove in a record seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs’ title defense with an 11-1 rout in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series on Thursday night.

“It feels good to hear World Series,” Kershaw said. “It’s been a long time coming for this team.”

After years of playoff heartache, there was just no stopping these Dodgers. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and co-NLCS MVPs Justin Turner and Chris Taylor leading a tough lineup, one of baseball’s most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Kirk Gibson, Orel Hershiser and Co. to Los Angeles’ last championship in 1988.

The Dodgers will host the New York Yankees or Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night. The Yankees have a 3-2 lead in the ALCS heading into Game 6 at Houston on Friday night, so one more New York win would set up another chapter in an old October rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers.

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Los Angeles made the playoffs eight times in the previous 13 seasons and came up short each time, often with Kershaw shouldering much of the blame. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner took the loss when his team was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year’s NLCS at Wrigley Field.

The ace left-hander was just OK during his first two starts in this year’s postseason, but Los Angeles’ offense picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez’s powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts and improved to 6-7 in the playoffs – matching Burt Hooton’s club record for postseason wins.

When Kenley Jansen retired Willson Contreras on a liner to shortstop for the final out, the party was on. The Dodgers poured out of the dugout and mobbed their dominant closer near the mound, and a small but vocal group of Los Angeles fans gathered behind the visitors’ dugout and chanted “Let’s go Dodgers! Let’s go Dodgers!” (AP)

Hernandez connected on the first two pitches he saw, belting a solo drive in the second for his first career playoff homer and then a grand slam in the third against Hector Rondon. He added a two-run shot in the ninth against Mike Montgomery.

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