Dodgers' Enrique Hernandez is the utility man of the hour

Dodgers' Enrique Hernandez is the utility man of the hour
Enrique Hernandez, center, celebrates with Dodgers teammates after hitting a grand slam in the third inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

The champagne was primed to pop. The beer was ready to spill. The chant was not for Clayton Kershaw or Justin Turner or Cody Bellinger or Kenley Jansen.

The Dodgers had held their wildness in check for a few minutes, minding a trophy presentation. Then it was time to party, and the man the players wanted to surround in their party circle was Enrique Hernandez.


Hernandez was happy to oblige, and a bit overwhelmed.

Utility players do not usually get the party started. But utility players do not usually hit three home runs in a game either, as Hernandez did Thursday night in an 11-1 romp over the Chicago Cubs that clinched the National League pennant and the Dodgers' first World Series berth since 1988.

"I don't remember the last time the Dodgers got to the World Series!" Hernandez bellowed. "I wasn't even born yet!"

The Dodgers' World Series drought ended at 29, three years older than Hernandez. Then again, Hernandez hollered at his teammates, getting to the World Series is not the goal.

"We've got four [bleeping] games to go!" he shouted.

Hernandez had the finest game of his career Thursday.

With three home runs, he matched the record for a league championship series game — last accomplished by Adam Kennedy of the Angels in 2002 in a game that clinched the last World Series appearance by a Southern California team.

Never had Hernandez driven in five runs in a game.

He did it in the first three innings Thursday, with a solo home run in the second and a grand slam in the third, and he added a two-run shot in the ninth.

"I was still so tired from the second one," he said. "I felt like I couldn't catch my breath.

"It's awesome. It's unreal. I never dreamed of doing something like this on a stage like this."

He drove in seven runs in all, a postseason record for a team that has won six World Series championships and employed eight Hall of Fame players.

He drove in so many runs that Yasiel Puig insisted he lost count.

"Unbelievable," Puig said. "Seven or eight RBIs? I can't remember. Too many hits for him. Too many RBIs."

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs four games to one in the 2017 NLCS.

Hernandez has staked his claim to Dodger fame as a man who rakes left-handers at bat, plays just about every position in the field and dresses in a banana costume to rally the team.

The Dodgers say their spin-a-hero wheel eventually stops on everyone in uniform.

In a victory 29 years in the making, the star of stars was a guy famous in part for donning a fruit costume.

"Why not have it be a guy who has been platooning?" Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said.

"He's a guy with a ton of talent. I think he's a baseball player first and a comedian second. Hopefully, that will be the order going forward."

Hernandez turned serious, and emotional, as he talked about how grateful he was that his father could be here.

Hernandez's grandfather died last month. His father was diagnosed with cancer last year — he could not have attended the World Series even had the Dodgers made it — but he beat it this year.

After Hernandez hit his second home run, his eyes looked so glazed that teammate Charlie Culberson asked what he was thinking.

"I can't wait until this game is over," Hernandez told Culberson, "so I can give my dad a big old hug."

On his cap, Hernandez had written "Pray 4 PR," a reference to the long and slow recovery his native Puerto Rico is making from the hurricane that virtually destroyed the island.

He previously had called out President Trump for what Hernandez regarded as the stunt of tossing rolls of paper towels to needy families.

"This is not a joke," Hernandez had said. "And to see him throwing paper towels out there ... it's like going to Vegas right now and starting to throw Band-Aids to the public."

Hernandez and his fiancee set up an online fund for hurricane relief one month ago. The total amount pledged soared from $70,000 toward $100,000 during Thursday's game, as a native son enjoyed the game of his life.

"I did all this for the people back home," Hernandez said. "I guess you could say this is what triggered me to have a game like this."

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin