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2016 NLCS: Dodgers vs. Cubs

Roberts proving Dodgers found right man for job

Newly crowned NL champs kept open mind when hiring manager before 2016 season
MLB.com

All these teams looking for a new manager -- and another one joined the list Friday when the Nationals announced they're parting ways with Dusty Baker -- should hire somebody the way the Dodgers hired Dave Roberts.

OK, look, that sentence isn't as simple or as silly as it sounds. Roberts is an individual, and individuals are all, in their own way, unrepeatable. The point here is not that every team should aspire to have somebody exactly like Roberts, the skipper of the newly named National League champion Dodgers.

All these teams looking for a new manager -- and another one joined the list Friday when the Nationals announced they're parting ways with Dusty Baker -- should hire somebody the way the Dodgers hired Dave Roberts.

OK, look, that sentence isn't as simple or as silly as it sounds. Roberts is an individual, and individuals are all, in their own way, unrepeatable. The point here is not that every team should aspire to have somebody exactly like Roberts, the skipper of the newly named National League champion Dodgers.

Dress for the World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear

:: World Series schedule and coverage ::

The point, rather, is that a lesson can be gleaned from the way the Dodgers, who open the World Series presented by YouTube TV on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium, came upon Roberts in the first place: with an open mind that led them to the right man for their team and tastes.

Roberts was not the Dodgers' first choice when they began the interview process. If anything, the process itself could have been viewed as a mere formality before the expected in-house hire of farm director Gabe Kapler. To be clear, Kapler has intelligence and assets that likely would have translated well to the job. But Roberts, who also interviewed for the Mariners job that went to Scott Servais that offseason, was so prepared and communicative that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's previous unfamiliarity with Roberts and Roberts' lack of managerial experience didn't matter. With all preconceived notions seemingly stacked against him, the dude came in and earned the job.

"We walked out of the initial interview joking that he had our answer key," Friedman said. "From there, it just continued. We didn't know that much about him. We had heard he was really impressive in the Seattle interviews. We had heard good things about him as a person, about his ability to connect with people. But you don't know until you sit down and get a better feel for someone. He was extremely impressive as far as his thought process, and he is a relentless optimist, which I think over the course of a long season is a great approach when dealing with so many different personalities."

Video: Andrew Friedman discusses Dodgers' pennant

Interviewing a bunch of people and picking the person who seems the best fit sounds simple, of course. But baseball is not unlike many businesses in that personal relationships and shared backgrounds can affect judgments, especially with such an important hire. Going off the grid with an unfamiliar face is probably more rare than it ought to be. Every ballclub is structured with its own sets of strengths, weaknesses and structures, and it is elemental to find somebody who fits within that club's current climate.

One of the great mismatches of recent history was the Red Sox's hire of Bobby Valentine. He was a known name, no doubt, and a skipper with past successes. But Valentine's penchant for public honesty didn't mesh well with a largely veteran clubhouse accustomed to Terry Francona's incessantly supportive public proclamations. That club soured on Valentine early, and his tenure famously didn't last long.

Contrast that admittedly extreme example with the way the Dodgers landed on Roberts. This was a club devoted to depth. The Dodgers have the largest payroll in the game, but under the Friedman regime, the emphasis has been on maintaining an elite farm system and building a big league roster that can mix and match with the best of them. What that means is there are tough conversations that must take place with players from Day 1 of Spring Training all the way through. In the interview process, the Dodgers came to realize what an asset Roberts' interpersonal abilities can be, and the players have come to discover it, too.

"Everybody talks about Doc's enthusiasm and positivity," said staff ace Clayton Kershaw, "which is huge in a leadership role."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw retires Rizzo to complete outing

Remembering well the values he most appreciated in managers he played for, Roberts makes it a point before every game to personally check in with every player on his roster -- how they're feeling, what they're going through, etc. When you develop trust, it makes the difficult conversations and moments easier to go through together.

"The ability to give guys a feel for when they're going to play and when not and just continually putting them in the best position to succeed inspires more confidence and trust and helps propel the relationships," Friedman said. "Doc and the coaches do a tremendous job with synthesizing the information and delivering it in nuggets."

So no, hiring a manager isn't as simple as just going with the guy the media trumpets or the fans gravitate toward. It's not as simple as sorting the managerial-wins leaderboard and going with the first available guy on the list. It's not even as simple as promoting a known quantity in-house. The manager has to fit the situation before the situation can fit the manager. Roberts is a prime example who is now, in the wake of taking down the defending champs, in a prime position.

"I connect with people and players," Roberts said. "I think that it's always important to get the most out of your players. As a teacher, that's your job -- on the field and personally. So I feel that I can do that. But the players, the coaches, the front office, I think that a lot of the credit goes to them in helping me grow."

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Sarah's Take: Dodgers playing like champs

Los Angeles is four wins from goal of winning Fall Classic
MLB.com

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League pennant on Thursday. For the first time since 1988, Dodger Stadium will host a World Series game.

The Dodgers simply dominated the Cubs, winning four of the five games played in the best-of-seven series. While the Cubs had the best record in the NL after the All-Star break, they struggled in the NLCS presented by Camping World. The Cubs couldn't launch a rally against the Dodgers' pitching staff, as most of their runs during the series came via home runs. The defense committed costly errors and allowed passed balls, giving the Dodgers many more scoring opportunities. The Cubs' starting pitchers, except Jake Arrieta, struggled with their control, and the Chicago bullpen was the Achilles' heel. Although the 2016 season was the Cubs' special year, winning the franchise's first World Series since 1908, they didn't have the same magic in 2017.

The Los Angeles Dodgers won the National League pennant on Thursday. For the first time since 1988, Dodger Stadium will host a World Series game.

The Dodgers simply dominated the Cubs, winning four of the five games played in the best-of-seven series. While the Cubs had the best record in the NL after the All-Star break, they struggled in the NLCS presented by Camping World. The Cubs couldn't launch a rally against the Dodgers' pitching staff, as most of their runs during the series came via home runs. The defense committed costly errors and allowed passed balls, giving the Dodgers many more scoring opportunities. The Cubs' starting pitchers, except Jake Arrieta, struggled with their control, and the Chicago bullpen was the Achilles' heel. Although the 2016 season was the Cubs' special year, winning the franchise's first World Series since 1908, they didn't have the same magic in 2017.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

From the beginning of Spring Training, the Dodgers have had one goal: winning a World Series championship. Los Angeles understood it must work together as a team to achieve the goal, and it was evident during the NLCS. Every night the Dodgers had a different hero.

Dress for World Series: Get Dodgers' postseason gear

When the series began, the Dodgers could have been at a disadvantage. In the recent past, news that Corey Seager would miss the series because of a back injury would have sent the club into a tailspin, but this year, Charlie Culberson and Chris Taylor performed well at the shortstop position.

The Dodgers' incredible depth and eye for the strike zone enabled the team to go to the World Series. They didn't rely on one player, even though the co-MVPS -- Justin Turner and Taylor -- delivered in the clutch on offense. All of the starters performed with excellence, and the bullpen has recorded 23 straight scoreless innings. Putting Kenta Maeda into the 'pen has proven to be a brilliant move. As a starter, Maeda nibbled at the corners of the strike zone and used more offspeed pitches, but as a reliever, Maeda simply attacks the strike zone.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Taylor, Turner named co-MVPs for NLCS

When the season began, Taylor wasn't on the 25-man Opening Day roster even though he had a good offensive Spring Training because the Dodgers wanted a utility player who could play the outfield. In April, the Dodgers performed under expectations, especially the offense, so they promoted both Taylor and Cody Bellinger. During the NLCS, Taylor delivered two go-ahead home runs while playing stellar defense at shortstop and center field.

Video: Turner talks to MLB Tonight about improving his swing

Before joining his hometown team in 2014, Turner was a utility infielder with a decent batting average, but very little power. Just before signing a Minor League deal with the Dodgers, he revamped his swing. Turner has become one of the most consistent offensive producers in baseball and is a spectacular defensive third baseman. However, in the postseason, Turner has been unbelievable. He has the second highest batting average in postseason history. During the NLCS, he had a three-run walk-off homer on the 29th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's dramatic two-run homer in the 1988 World Series. Turner also had a solo home run in Game 4 on Wednesday.

Although Clayton Kershaw has endured well-documented struggles during the playoffs in his distinguished career, on Thursday night against the Cubs, he was splendid for six innings. Kershaw did allow a solo home run to Kris Bryant, but Kershaw was never in trouble since his control was near perfect.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw fans five over six solid innings

The Cubs never threatened to rally. Ater six innings, manager Dave Roberts lifted Kershaw and finished with Maeda, Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen to seal the victory.

However, the night belonged to Enrique Hernandez. A year ago, baseball was no longer fun for Hernandez, whose father was battling lung cancer. The Puerto Rico native, who had a disappointing 2016 season, received the opportunity to play in this year's World Baseball Classic, and it renewed his desire to play. Hernandez had a decent offensive campaign, primarily playing against lefties, while playing everywhere except catcher and pitcher in the regular season. This postseason, he has contributed to the offense while playing a stellar left field.

Video: Must C Classic: Hernandez homers thrice in clincher

On Thursday, Hernandez made baseball history when he hit three home runs, including a grand slam, and drove in seven runs in Game 5 at Wrigley Field.

Although the Dodgers need four more wins to earn a World Series championship, just going to the Fall Classic for the first time in 29 years is a huge accomplishment, and the city of Los Angeles is rejoicing.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers pitch in with relief aid to Puerto Rico

MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers will make a "substantial" donation to aid Puerto Rico's relief effort from Hurricane Maria in the name of Enrique Hernandez, whose record-tying three-homer performance on Thursday helped the club clinch the National League Championship Series.

Hernandez, a native of Puerto Rico, tied postseason single-game records with the trio of home runs and seven RBIs against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Game 5 of the NLCS presented by Camping World.

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers will make a "substantial" donation to aid Puerto Rico's relief effort from Hurricane Maria in the name of Enrique Hernandez, whose record-tying three-homer performance on Thursday helped the club clinch the National League Championship Series.

Hernandez, a native of Puerto Rico, tied postseason single-game records with the trio of home runs and seven RBIs against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Game 5 of the NLCS presented by Camping World.

The Dodgers announced the donation on Friday after the night flight home from Chicago. Los Angeles will resume workouts on Saturday for the World Series presented by YouTube TV, which opens on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Cubs shouldn't hang their heads

Coming off first title since 1908, club showed a lot of heart
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Maybe you could have seen this coming, but the Cubs didn't.

When they ran onto the field to face Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on a gorgeous Thursday night, center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and left fielder Kyle Schwarber bathed in the enthusiasm of Wrigley Field's bleacherites.

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CHICAGO -- Maybe you could have seen this coming, but the Cubs didn't.

When they ran onto the field to face Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on a gorgeous Thursday night, center fielder Albert Almora Jr. and left fielder Kyle Schwarber bathed in the enthusiasm of Wrigley Field's bleacherites.

View Full Game Coverage

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

Almora grabbed a ball that a fan threw to him and used it to play catch with right fielder Ben Zobrist, while Schwarber engaged in a little shadow boxing rope-a-dope.

They were excited about the chance to sting Kershaw and get the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World back to Dodger Stadium for its conclusion. But then Enrique Hernandez blasted homers in the second and third innings, and it quickly became time to say farewell to a champion.

Also to acknowledge what many had suspected since June, if not before

"It kind of felt like we switched roles [with the Dodgers] the last couple of seasons,'' Zobrist said. "They were well-rested all season. They took their division by storm. They were kind of in the same position we were in last year, coming into the Championship Series for the National League. … They deserve to go to the World Series.''

As for the Cubs, don't focus too long on the 11-1 loss in Game 5 that sealed the NLCS. Despite the one-sided nature of this series -- the Dodgers outscored the Cubs, 28-8 -- the bigger picture is that manager Joe Maddon's team went down swinging in a season that was special from the start because it followed the team's first World Series championship since 1908.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Maddon congratulates NL Champion Dodgers

"Coming off the last two years, and especially having won, the team that won for the first time in 108 years, it was very difficult for the guys to get jump-started in April and May,'' Maddon said. "I think that's legitimate. I don't think it's a stretch. I don't think it's hyperbole in any way. … We eventually got our thing together and started playing extremely well post All-Star break and especially in September.''

Sure, the goal was to get back to the World Series, and the Cubs fell short. But let's consider what they did:

Recovered from a 43-45 first half and a 5 1/2-game deficit at the All-Star break to win the NL Central, in the process joining the 2009 Phillies as the only World Series champs since '02 to win a division title the following season.

Beat the Nationals in an emotionally charged NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile.

As encores go, this may not have been Jimi Hendrix playing two uninterrupted hours at the end of Woodstock, but it was better than an American League Wild Card Red Sox team being swept by the White Sox in 2005, the year after Boston won its first World Series since 1918.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Zobrist on disappointing end to season

There's a parallel between the '05 Red Sox and the '17 Cubs beyond the obvious.

Because they were trying to catch the Yankees in a race that went down to Game 162, the Red Sox went into that postseason with their rotation jumbled. These Cubs were on their heels from the start of the NLCS because they couldn't beat Stephen Strasburg in Game 4 of the NLDS.

Had they won at Wrigley Field on Oct. 11, the Cubs would have had two days to prepare to face a fully rested Kershaw in the NLCS opener. But instead they had to fight through a 9-8 win in the deciding game of the NLDS in Washington and endure a difficult travel day before the opener at Dodger Stadium.

It may not have mattered that their pitching was tired and out of order because the Dodgers' pitching staff, from Kershaw through closer Kenley Jansen, was at the top of its game. The Cubs finished the NLCS hitting .156 and the postseason hitting .168.

Toss in a rattled bullpen that gave up 27 runs in 37 2/3 innings and it's remarkable that the Cubs were able to do what they did.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Rizzo on Cubs' 2017 season after loss

"This playoff run was just all heart,'' said Anthony Rizzo, whose 1-for-17 NLCS epitomized the lineup's struggle.

Maddon loves the unselfishness and cohesiveness of his players. The team joined its fans in celebrating the 2016 championship, but wasn't satisfied with winning once.

"This year for sure the challenge was the emotional exhaustion we experienced over the course of the offseason after what we experienced last year,'' Zobrist said. "That's tough to come back from and start off well in-season. We had a tough Spring Training and a tough start to the season, and that contributed to it. But no excuses. We're professionals.

"What was accomplished last year, it was difficult to put that in the rearview mirror the first half of the season. I think we did a good job in the second half of the season. Guys really worked like champions all year long. That's really all you can ask of yourself, to work like a champion every day, to try to focus like a champion, and guys did that.''

Video: NLCS Gm5: Bryant on Cubs' season after NLCS loss

The Cubs have won 311 games the past three seasons, regular season and postseason combined. These are the kind of totals they registered in their franchise's heyday, when Theodore Roosevelt and William H. Taft were in the White House.

They should feel good about their chances to be back here next October, with a young core that is just as talented and more experienced. They've got questions, of course, and they're not small ones.

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein will immediately tackle a series of personnel issues, mostly with the pitching staff. Jake Arrieta and closer Wade Davis are headed into free agency, John Lackey into either free agency or retirement and October highlighted the need to improve the bullpen.

But the mission will be the same in 2018 as it was in '17 -- hang another championship banner alongside the one that was raised in April.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Joe Maddon on Lackey's future with Cubs

"We're going to consistently compete here for years to come,'' Rizzo said. "That's what this organization has been built on. We want to have five or six years where we're consistently competing. We're built to do that. We're built to make a postseason run again, but it's not going to come easily.''

In his last at-bat of 2017, Rizzo lifted a long fly ball to right field off Jansen. It teased the crowd for a moment before dropping into Yasiel Puig's glove.

As Rizzo trudged back to the dugout, fans behind the dugout stood to applaud. They were in this with him, and not just for 162 games, but 172. It was a great ride, just not the ride of a lifetime.

Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.

Chicago Cubs

Roberts, Dodgers seeing fruits of their labors

Second-year manager beaming with pride as club heads to Fall Classic
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- In December 2001, a speedy 29-year-old outfielder named Dave Roberts was dealt to the Dodgers for a pair of prospects. The following spring, Roberts donned Dodger blue for the first time.

Shop for Dodgers World Series gear

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CHICAGO -- In December 2001, a speedy 29-year-old outfielder named Dave Roberts was dealt to the Dodgers for a pair of prospects. The following spring, Roberts donned Dodger blue for the first time.

Shop for Dodgers World Series gear

View Full Game Coverage

Sixteen seasons later, Roberts has earned himself a permanent place in Dodgers history as the third man to skipper Los Angeles to a World Series appearance. With an 11-1 victory over the Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World, Roberts joined franchise icons Tommy Lasorda and Walter Alston as the only managers to reach the World Series in Los Angeles.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

When Roberts first put on his L.A. cap, he never could have envisioned this.

"I was just trying to survive, just happy to be a Major League player at that point in time," Roberts said. "I think that as your kind of career evolves and starts to descend, you start changing roles -- mentor, teammate, role model, helping younger players and just loving the teaching component.

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

"I just love the game. I love to teach, I love the players."

With that in mind, there was only one logical next step for Roberts. He joined Bud Black's Padres staff in 2010 and spent five seasons in various capacities in San Diego until the Dodgers job came open after the '15 season.

In his first year in Los Angeles, Roberts took home the NL Manager of the Year Award, but fell a step short of reaching the World Series, losing to the Cubs in the NLCS. A season later, Roberts and the Dodgers flipped the script.

"To do what we did, it takes a lot of talent, a lot of give, a lot of open-mindedness," Roberts said. "There was a complete buy-in. Now, it's almost a culmination. Getting an opportunity to play for a championship, I'm just so proud of our guys."

It's clear his players responded when Roberts asked them to buy in.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Roberts tips his cap to Maddon, Cubs

"The energy he brings to the field every single day -- it's a genuine energy and passion and caring for every single guy in that room," said Justin Turner, who was named co-MVP of the NLCS along with Chris Taylor. "It's not a fake thing. It's real. I mean, he literally takes it upon himself, and he makes a point of trying to go and talk to every single guy every single day and ask how you're doing, how your family's doing."

To a man, Roberts' players rave about his ability to motivate.

But tactically, too, Roberts hasn't put a foot wrong this postseason. He's put on a clinic in bullpen management, bridging the gap from his starters to closer Kenley Jansen by exploiting every matchup possible. In 17 innings against the Dodgers' bullpen this series, the Cubs managed only four hits.

Lineup-wise, he's played those matchups pristinely, as well. Andre Ethier, Enrique Hernandez and Charlie Culberson all saw time in various platoons. And all three played critical roles in the Dodgers' NLCS success.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Roberts announces Kershaw for Game 1 of WS

"When we talk about buying in, that's what he talked about on Day 1 of Spring Training," said Turner. "You're either in or you're out. We've got a lot of guys that are all in right now."

With a 10-run lead in the ninth, Roberts atypically allowed his thoughts to wander. They drifted to his late father, Waymon, who passed away during Spring Training at the age of 68.

"He's wearing his Dodger jacket up there and looking down on us and smiling," Roberts said, offering a smile of his own.

"I know that smile very well."

AJ Cassavell is in his seventh season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers latest top seed to reach World Series

10 previous times in Wild Card Era has team with best regular-season record made it to Classic
MLB.com

The Dodgers are heading to the World Series for the first time since 1988 after Thursday's 11-1 win over the Cubs clinched the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World. They're doing so as baseball's top seed in the first year home-field advantage in the Fall Classic is determined by overall record.

• Gear up for the World Series at Dodgers Shop

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The Dodgers are heading to the World Series for the first time since 1988 after Thursday's 11-1 win over the Cubs clinched the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World. They're doing so as baseball's top seed in the first year home-field advantage in the Fall Classic is determined by overall record.

• Gear up for the World Series at Dodgers Shop

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The Dodgers went 104-58 in the regular season, claiming their fifth consecutive NL West title. They're now the 11th team in the Wild Card Era (since 1995) to punch their ticket to the World Series presented by YouTube TV after finishing the regular season with the best record in baseball (including the 2013 Cardinals and Red Sox, who tied at 97-65). Among the previous 10 teams, five won it all.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

:: World Series schedule and coverage ::

Expanding the scope to the top team in each league increases that group to 16 teams (nine from the American League and seven from the NL) that reached the World Series, including this year's Dodgers, and nine that won it. The AL's top team this season, the 102-win Indians, were eliminated in the AL Division Series by the Yankees.

Here's a look at how the previous 10 Wild Card-Era teams with the best regular-season record fared when reaching the World Series:

2016 Cubs (103-58)
The Cubs famously made history last season when they overcame a 3-1 Series deficit against the Indians to win the franchise's first World Series title since 1908. The Classic ended with an extra-inning thriller in Game 7 at Progressive Field.

2013 Red Sox (97-65) and Cardinals (97-65)
Boston and St. Louis met for the fourth time in the World Series in 2013. The teams entered the postseason tied for the best record in baseball and without a head-to-head regular-season matchup to differentiate a top seed among them. The Sox won in six games, clinching a championship at Fenway Park for the first time since 1918.

2009 Yankees (103-59)
The Yankees won their 27th and most recent championship in 2009 after pacing the Majors with 103 wins. Andy Pettitte earned his MLB-record 18th career playoff victory as New York clinched the Series against the Phillies in Game 6 in the Bronx.

Video: Must C Championship: Cubs win the 2016 World Series

2007 Red Sox (96-66)
The Red Sox captured their second title in four years by sweeping the Rockies, who were making their first World Series appearance, in 2007. Boston outscored Colorado, 29-10, in the four-game series.

2004 Cardinals (105-57)
The Cardinals entered the playoffs with baseball's best record and made it all the way to the World Series before they ran into a red-hot Boston team that proved too much to handle. Fresh off a historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS against the Yankees, Boston kept its momentum going by sweeping the Cardinals in four games.

2003 Yankees (101-61)
The Yankees reached their fifth World Series in five seasons after a 101-win campaign in 2003, but were upset by the underdog Marlins, who reached the Fall Classic as the NL Wild Card team. New York lost in six games after Florida's Josh Beckett tossed a five-hit shutout to clinch the Marlins' second World Series championship.

1999 Braves (103-59)
For the second time in four seasons, the Braves fell to the Yankees in the World Series. Atlanta was swept by New York, as a third consecutive 100-plus-win campaign ended in a postseason defeat.

1998 Yankees (114-48)
The Yankees have finished atop the AL nine times since 1995, winning as many as a franchise-record 114 games in '98. New York's historic season continued in the playoffs, where the Yankees swept the Padres in the World Series.

1995 Indians (100-44)
After reaching 100 wins for the second time in franchise history, the Indians lost a hard-fought six-game series to the Braves. Five of the six contests were decided by one run, with only Atlanta's 5-2 victory in Game 4 exceeding that margin.

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Cubs salute Dodgers after falling in NLCS

Chicago's offense, pitching struggle against formidable LA
MLB.com

The Cubs' season came to an end Thursday as their quest to repeat as champions fell short with an 11-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World at Wrigley Field.

Chicago managed to hand the Dodgers their first loss of the playoffs, taking Game 4 at home on Wednesday, but ultimately couldn't keep pace with the hot bats and dominant pitching of Los Angeles.

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The Cubs' season came to an end Thursday as their quest to repeat as champions fell short with an 11-1 loss to the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World at Wrigley Field.

Chicago managed to hand the Dodgers their first loss of the playoffs, taking Game 4 at home on Wednesday, but ultimately couldn't keep pace with the hot bats and dominant pitching of Los Angeles.

View Full Game Coverage

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

After the game, a number of Cubs players and manager Joe Maddon tipped their caps to the Dodgers, who advance to take on either the Astros or Yankees in the World Series presented by YouTube TV on Tuesday.

Here's what they had to say:

Maddon:
"Before I take a question, may I just congratulate the Dodgers? I've got a lot of buddies over there, of course, with [former Rays general manager] Andrew [Friedman], Logan Forsythe. I hope I don't start missing people. But there are a lot of friends over there, so I want to congratulate them on their victory. The better team won over the course of these five games. They played really well. They kind of out-pitched us and everything else. So give them credit.

"Dave Roberts and their entire staff, I just want to say congratulations. You know what it feels like coming off of last year, we were celebrating versus them in this exact same spot. So they've had themselves a spectacular year, and I want to wish them all well in the World Series."

Third baseman Kris Bryant:
"When you look at this series, they did exactly what they needed to do in all phases -- pitched great, bullpen was lights-out. That makes it tough for us."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Almora Jr. talks about NLCS loss to Dodgers

Outfielder Ben Zobrist:
"I think the Dodgers were just better, all series long in every facet of the game. They played a phenomenal series, and we didn't. That's why we're going home. We have to keep our heads up and recognize that we kept battling together, kept focused all the way to the end."

"We did the best we could. We just didn't play a great series and they played a great series. They deserved to go to the World Series. They were the best team in 2017. We have a lot of work to do yet and we all feel like we're capable of World Series championships. We know we're champions in this clubhouse and we just have to keep working like that and come back and have a better start to next year.

First baseman Anthony Rizzo
"We didn't do enough to beat the Dodgers. They pitched better than our hitting. End of story. They're good. There's no excuses. End of the day, it is what it is."

Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Chicago Cubs

Despite NLCS loss, Cubs still set for future

MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs aren't going to repeat as World Series champions, but manager Joe Maddon is quick to remind fans that getting to the National League Championship Series three years in a row is quite an accomplishment and that the future is bright.

"I think we did OK based on how we started [the season]," Maddon said. "Three trips to this neck of the woods doesn't happen often. We're young, and we're no longer inexperienced. We've been young and inexperienced, and now we're just young, so that's nice. Eventually, the young will become veterans, too."

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CHICAGO -- The Cubs aren't going to repeat as World Series champions, but manager Joe Maddon is quick to remind fans that getting to the National League Championship Series three years in a row is quite an accomplishment and that the future is bright.

"I think we did OK based on how we started [the season]," Maddon said. "Three trips to this neck of the woods doesn't happen often. We're young, and we're no longer inexperienced. We've been young and inexperienced, and now we're just young, so that's nice. Eventually, the young will become veterans, too."

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On Thursday, the Cubs were eliminated as the Dodgers clinched the NL pennant with an 11-1 victory, taking the best-of-seven NLCS presented by Camping World, 4-1.

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

"We've got a pretty good core here, and a lot of guys will be here next year, too," third baseman Kris Bryant said. "If you look at it, being in the final four of baseball, out of all the good teams out there, we're not going to hang our heads. There's a lot of positives."

The foundation is there, featuring Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr. and Jason Heyward. Rizzo and Heyward are the old men in the group at 28. Also, rookie Ian Happ got a jump-start on his career, hitting 24 homers and driving in 68 runs during the regular season.

The Cubs will have to address their pitching. Starters Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana return, but Jake Arrieta and John Lackey are free agents. Closer Wade Davis is also a free agent, which means the Cubs could have their fourth different closer in the last three years in 2018.

This year, the Cubs added relievers Koji Uehara and Justin Wilson, but neither was on the NLCS roster. Uehara was bothered by injuries and totaled 43 innings, while Wilson was ineffective. Carl Edwards Jr. has pitched in the postseason two consecutive years, and he will likely be used more in a setup role in '18.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Joe Maddon on Lackey's future with Cubs

Rizzo sees plenty of positives, even if the Cubs did come up short in the postseason.

"We're going to consistently be here for years to come, and that's what this organization has been built on," Rizzo said. "We started building five, six years ago to compete every single year, and we're in position to do that. We'll be in the position next year to make another run. It's not going to come easy, and something we can't take for granted."

The Cubs need a leadoff man. They need to figure out how to score runs without relying on homers -- all of their runs in the NLCS came on home runs. But Maddon doesn't see major changes.

"You look at the group and the breakdown of the team, and if there are certain things that didn't carry you all the way to the World Series, you look at what part was lacking," Maddon said. "Those are the things you ask. When you're this successful for three consecutive years, there's tweaking going on, there's not mass reconstruction.

"It's not plastic surgery. I think it's just something minor, and you might just have to cut off a zit here or there and not augmentation."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Maddon discusses NLCS loss against Dodgers

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

Cubs proud of season as repeat quest ends

Reigning champions reflect after 2017 campaign finishes with NLCS loss
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- During the National League Championship Series games at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon glanced at the center-field scoreboard. For the third straight year, the Cubs were one of the final four teams still playing.

"That's pretty darn impressive," Maddon said. "That speaks to the group, speaks to the organization itself. That's not lost on me, believe me. That's pretty special stuff. You could ask other groups in Major League Baseball who have not had that same situation and ask them what they think about it.

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CHICAGO -- During the National League Championship Series games at Wrigley Field, Cubs manager Joe Maddon glanced at the center-field scoreboard. For the third straight year, the Cubs were one of the final four teams still playing.

"That's pretty darn impressive," Maddon said. "That speaks to the group, speaks to the organization itself. That's not lost on me, believe me. That's pretty special stuff. You could ask other groups in Major League Baseball who have not had that same situation and ask them what they think about it.

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"I hope everybody understands that, I hope our fans understand that," Maddon said. "We intend to stay on the same path for many years to come."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Maddon on effects from 2016 World Series

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

On Thursday night, the Cubs' season came to an end. The Dodgers romped, 11-1, to win the NLCS presented by Camping World and eliminate the possibility of the Cubs repeating as champions.

"As a team, we know it's an accomplishment to get to where we've gotten to," Ben Zobrist said. "But after what we experienced last year, this is less than what we wanted this year. At the same time, you have to recognize how tough a year it was for us. We kept battling and were able to win our division and win the Division Series to get here. I think the Dodgers were just better. They played a phenomenal series and we didn't. We have to keep our heads up. We kept battling together and stayed together."

In 2015, the Cubs reached the NLCS after winning the NL Wild Card Game, and last year, they posted the best record in the Major Leagues and capped the 2016 campaign by winning the franchise's first World Series since 1908. This year, the Cubs repeated as NL Central champs, although they had to come from behind to do so. Now, the season is over.

Maddon wasn't happy about the loss, but was proud of the journey.

"I could not be more pleased," Maddon said. "I think our guys learned a lot coming off last year -- how do you win, how do you play that deeply in the year and then compete and be good again the next year and get back to the promised land. It's not easy. I believe a lot of lessons were learned this year that we'll be able to carry with us.

"You think you learn some things from your past and you implement them and see if they actually do work," he said. "I thought I learned, the results appear as if I did learn something from a lot of failure."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Almora Jr. talks about NLCS loss to Dodgers

How hard is it to repeat? The Cubs are the first defending World Series champions to win their division and reach 90 wins the next season since the 2009 Phillies. They were trying to become the first World Series champs to repeat since the Yankees did so in 2000, the tail end of three titles for New York.

It seemed to take the entire first half of the 2017 regular season for the Cubs to get their footing. They trailed the Brewers by 5 1/2 games at the All-Star break. Willson Contreras provided the second-half spark, batting .311 from the All-Star break until he injured his hamstring in early August. The pitching improved, with Kyle Hendricks and Jake Arrieta posting ERAs of 2.19 and 2.28, respectively, in the second half. Jose Quintana, acquired at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, went 7-3 with a 3.75 ERA, including a shutout against the Brewers on Sept. 24.

The offense found its groove, too. They batted .239 in the first half, and surged after the break with a .273 team average, second best to the Rockies.

The Cubs got a boost from rookie Ian Happ, who belted 24 home runs. Kyle Schwarber rebounded from being sent to the Minor Leagues and finished with 30 home runs and 59 RBIs. As a group, the Cubs totaled 223 homers, the second-highest season total in franchise history.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Zobrist on disappointing end to season

"There were a bunch of doubters out there, and a lot of people saying things that we knew weren't going to be true and we ended up proving a lot of people wrong," Chicago's Kris Bryant said. "That's a satisfying piece to take from the season."

Whether it was a World Series hangover or a sophomore jinx, or simply injuries to key players or difficulty finding guys to fill certain roles, the first half was a struggle.

"The first part prior to the All-Star break, I could sense it, you can smell it, you can feel it, it's true," Maddon said of the Cubs' slow start. "So what's that mean? It means that our guys are somewhat fatigued from the end of last season. When you watch them, it's not familiar because they're not playing with that same mental energy that you're normally used to seeing."

But they rebooted at the break.

"We were still behind Milwaukee significantly," Maddon said. "And then post-break, we catch some rest, and we play like we can. We start smelling it. You go to Milwaukee in September, and this really became familiar again, the method. How we go about our business, the adrenaline rush, the mental energy, the focus, all that stuff came back to us."

The Brewers swept the Cubs at Wrigley Field from Sept. 8-10, but Chicago then went on a 15-4 run to finish the season and repeat as NL Central champs.

Maddon -- and Cubs fans -- just had to be patient.

"I know everybody goes back to the first half of the season and likes to nitpick, but we won the division, made the playoffs," Jon Lester said. "Sometimes you're not always going to be in the World Series. The Dodgers are a really good team and they're playing really good baseball. This series showed it. You just move on. Your goal every Spring Training is to win the World Series. We put ourselves in a really good position to get to that point, and we weren't able to do it."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs

LA pleased to beat 'incredibly talented' Cubs

Dodgers win pennant in place where '16 season ended, '17 season began
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- It was nothing more than coincidence that the Dodgers happened to be at Wrigley Field on April 10, the quirk of a schedule printed long before any October storylines came to be. It was nonetheless uncomfortable. The Dodgers watched as the Cubs raised their 2016 World Series championship flag, knowing they stood on the same field six months earlier with a chance to prevent it.

Dress for the World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear

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CHICAGO -- It was nothing more than coincidence that the Dodgers happened to be at Wrigley Field on April 10, the quirk of a schedule printed long before any October storylines came to be. It was nonetheless uncomfortable. The Dodgers watched as the Cubs raised their 2016 World Series championship flag, knowing they stood on the same field six months earlier with a chance to prevent it.

Dress for the World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear

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Justin Turner bellowed late Thursday that "it didn't matter where" the Dodgers vanquished their 29-year pennant drought, clinching a World Series berth with an 11-1 win over the Cubs in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World. But other Dodgers found it appropriate that their road to the World Series presented by YouTube TV went through Chicago, through the defending champions, at the site of their final 2016 defeat.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

"Obviously they're an incredibly talented team, a great organization, extremely well-run," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "From our standpoint, we wanted nothing more than to play them again this October. They're the world champions. And when we stand here next year, we're certainly hoping that we're the defending world champions."

Since 2015, the Cubs and Dodgers have been twin models of excellence, the only two Major League teams to lose fewer than 200 games over that stretch. Although October's annual tournament is unpredictable, the Dodgers knew there was a strong chance they would need to upend the Cubs if they wished to win the pennant.

"We watched their ring ceremony, their banner raising," Friedman said. "It was universally talked about how much they wanted to experience the same thing."

The Dodgers did so in dominant fashion, using their bullpen advantage to tear down a rival still fatigued from its five-game win over the Nationals in the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile. The Dodgers outhit the Cubs, .258 to .156, in the NLCS. Their 1.64 team ERA was more than three times better than Chicago's 5.26 mark.

But the Dodgers also understand how easily things could have gone the other way -- had Jake Arrieta been available to pitch Game 1, for example, or had Wade Davis been more rested out of the bullpen, or had NL MVP Award candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo found their grooves. After all, they had seen that sort of thing before.

Most vividly, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen recalled the aftermath of last year's NLCS, when celebratory crowds around Wrigley Field delayed their bus ride to the airport. The Dodgers experienced no such problems Thursday, conducting their own celebration deep into the night.

"It's awesome to win it here," Jansen said. "We knew how it was last year and it stunk, man. It stunk to lose anyway in the postseason. So we wanted it bad. We want to win a championship, so we've worked hard for it."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers

WS berth one of Kershaw's 'best moments'

Elated Dodgers ace realizes childhood dream with clinching win, will start Game 1
MLB.com

CHICAGO -- Clayton Kershaw could not move. He turned to his right, slamming into a wall of teammates and a shower of beer. He turned to his left. More of the same. Eventually, Kershaw ducked out of the huddle of screaming Dodgers, who had transformed Wrigley Field's weight room into a fraternity house following their 11-1, pennant-clinching Game 5 win over the Cubs on Thursday in the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

Shop for Dodgers World Series gear

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CHICAGO -- Clayton Kershaw could not move. He turned to his right, slamming into a wall of teammates and a shower of beer. He turned to his left. More of the same. Eventually, Kershaw ducked out of the huddle of screaming Dodgers, who had transformed Wrigley Field's weight room into a fraternity house following their 11-1, pennant-clinching Game 5 win over the Cubs on Thursday in the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

Shop for Dodgers World Series gear

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Kershaw's T-shirt was plastered to his back. His hair covered his eyes, which bore no goggles. Finally free from his constraints, Kershaw whipped his head upward, champagne, beer and sweat spraying off him in all directions.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

"This is incredible," Kershaw rasped, his voice straining from both overuse and emotion after his six-inning gem in the clinching win. "Even before I got drafted, just when you're a little kid, you want to play in the World Series. It's all you ever dream about. I never thought in a million years I'd get to say that, that I'm going to go play in the World Series."

Video: Kershaw's gem helps finish out NLCS

Six previous times, Kershaw had lugged less talented teams into October, only to come up shy of his goal. The second-longest tenured Dodger behind Andre Ethier, Kershaw pitched for multiple ownership groups, multiple front-office regimes and a trio of managers. He won three NL Cy Young Awards and an NL MVP Award.

:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::

All along, Kershaw said, he heard whispers of "1988, 1988," a reference to the Dodgers' most recent title and pennant. Kershaw, the franchise's anointed savior, was born that year. It was symbolic, or preordained, or destiny or something. Kershaw, the first-round Draft pick, the wunderkind, had arrived to erase two-plus decades' worth of ills.

Yet throughout the first act of his career, Kershaw's October flatness contradicted his work from April through September. This generation's most accomplished pitcher came to Chicago dragging a 5-7 career postseason record and a 4.57 ERA. His surprise two-out save in last year's NL Division Series clincher notwithstanding, Kershaw was regarded as much a part of the Dodgers' playoff disappointments as he was the engine driving them to those opportunities.

Asked about Kershaw's reputation before Game 5, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein cut off the question.

"I remember for years, everyone said Barry Bonds couldn't perform in the postseason," Epstein said. "And then guess what? He went ballistic. So it's a small sample and matter of time."

Kershaw's time perhaps arrived last October, when he demanded the baseball in a save situation to topple the Nationals in the NLDS. But he subsequently lost a decisive NLCS Game 6 at Wrigley. The whispers grew louder, more incessant: "1988, 1988."

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw fans five over six solid innings

Returning to that same mound Thursday, Kershaw struck out the first batter he faced on a trademark diving curveball, then uncorked his swiftest pitch of the season, a 96.2-mph fastball. The whispers faded. Kershaw did not allow a hit until Kris Bryant homered with one out in the fourth. By that point, it was 9-1.

Two innings later, Kershaw walked off the mound into the dugout, where Dodgers manager Dave Roberts awaited. Not wanting to extend his ace past 89 pitches in a blowout, Roberts opened his arms for a hug. Both men were already considering World Series Game 1, which Kershaw will start Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

"You knew he wasn't going to be denied," Roberts said.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Kershaw retires Rizzo to complete outing

Even so, things are different now. The Dodgers, who won 104 games despite a back injury costing Kershaw six weeks, may be less reliant on their ace than ever. Leaning on baseball's deepest rotation during the regular season, the Dodgers subsequently rode one of the game's best bullpens to the pennant. Given the liberty to be less than perfect, Kershaw posted his highest ERA in a half-decade, which was still good enough to lead the league.

He didn't care all that much. He never has. All Kershaw ever wanted was a pennant and a title and all the trappings therein. He wanted to stand in the middle of a mob of teammates, clutching the NL championship trophy in his left hand.

Tweet from @Dodgers: Celebrate, @ClaytonKersh22. You deserve it. #ThisTeam pic.twitter.com/iSO1baEXCT

After doing so late Thursday night, Kershaw ducked back out to a mostly abandoned playing field. As Wrigley Field workers loaded catering equipment and beer kegs into storage, Kershaw wandered back onto the field with his 2-year-old daughter, Cali, trotting along, and his infant son, Charley, in tow. Kershaw's wife took photos as Cali posed on the mound, where not two hours earlier this generation's best pitcher pushed the only team he has ever known onto the grandest stage it has seen in decades.

"I couldn't imagine being part of something this great," Kershaw said. "Other than getting married and having kids, it's right up there with all the best moments of my life."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw

Memories of '88 return with LA in World Series

Current Dodgers reminding fans how special championship was 29 years ago
MLB.com

"In a year that has been so improbable the impossible has happened." -- Vin Scully, Oct. 15, 1988.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

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"In a year that has been so improbable the impossible has happened." -- Vin Scully, Oct. 15, 1988.

World Series Gm 1: Tues., 7:30 p.m. ET air time | 8 ET game time on FOX

View Full Game Coverage

Clayton Kershaw was seven months old the last time the Los Angeles Dodgers played in a World Series game. Here's the thing about that, really the coolest part of this whole deal with the Dodgers being back in the Fall Classic and all.

Get Dodgers NL champions gear

There is a circle that is unbroken. If anyone thinks 29 years passing makes the 1988 Fall Classic any less real or any less meaningful to Kershaw or any of these current Dodgers, they do not understand the culture of this franchise.

The Dodgers proudly embrace their history, from Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese to Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale. In that way, every generation of Dodgers is connected to every other. That's especially true of that 1988 team.

:: World Series schedule and coverage ::

So it does not matter that Justin Turner was 3 years old -- or that Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and a long list of others hadn't been born -- when Kirk Gibson hit arguably the most famous home run in World Series history.

They all know Gibson won Game 1 of the 1988 Series with one swing of the bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, his only at-bat of the series. Every single person who has played for, rooted for or worked for the Dodgers has Gibson hobbling, circling the bases, fists pumping, etched into their brain.

If that 1988 team has taken on a larger-than-life presence in the hearts and minds of Dodger fans, one reason could be that it has been a long wait for another. Or maybe it's because the 1988 Dodgers were THAT special.

Anyway, the 2017 Dodgers wrote a chapter of their own Thursday night by clinching the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World with an 11-1 victory over the Cubs. Game 1 of the 2017 World Series presented by YouTube TV will be Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers will now await a winner of the Yankees-Astros American League Championship Series presented by Camping World that resumes with Game 6 on Friday in Houston. The Yankees lead the ALCS, 3-2, and if they close it out, baseball will have its 12th Yankees-Dodgers World Series, its first since 1981.

This is right where we expected the 2017 Dodgers to be since they won 104 regular-season games and sprinted through the playoffs by winning seven of eight.

Few teams embrace their history as passionately as the Dodgers. To visit Dodger Stadium is to be reminded of Robinson and Reese, of Koufax and Drysdale. Those legends live forever in the hearts and minds of Dodgers fans, players, coaches, etc.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Roberts on meeting Lasorda

So does that 1988 championship team. Reminders are everywhere, from video-screen highlights to ceremonies honoring various members of the team through the years.

Even better, some of the 1988 Dodgers are still Dodgers. First on that list is manager Tommy Lasorda, who turned 90 last month, still occupies a box seat at Dodger Stadium for most home games, and was at Wrigley Field Thursday for the NLCS clincher in Chicago. World Series MVP Orel Hershiser is a member of the team's television crew, and catcher Mike Scioscia, who hit a key home run against the Mets in the NLCS, lives down the road a bit and manages the Angels.

Those 1988 Dodgers were a team of big personalities, beginning with Lasorda, who created an atmosphere of noise and laughter and aggressive baseball. He loved that team with its equally large personalities, from Gibby (Gibson) and Bulldog (Hershiser) to Sosh (Scioscia) and Saxie (Steve Sax).

Team meetings often weren't team meetings at all. Rather, they were excuses for Lasorda to hold court or to have Sax or Mickey Hatcher or someone else tell a story or two. The thing is, when it was time to play, they played hard. They took their cue from Gibson, the 1988 NL MVP, in that way.

And then in September, Hershiser had one of the great runs in history, stringing together 59 consecutive shutout innings, breaking Drysdale's record.

Still, they were underdogs against the Mets in the NLCS and needed a shutout in Game 7 to advance. They were also underdogs against the Oakland Athletics in the World Series right up until the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 1 when Gibson got his lone at-bat of the World Series.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Jansen retires Contreras to win NLCS

The A's led the game, 4-3, and had called upon future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley to close it down.

Gibson had injuries to both knees and received injections that morning in an attempt to play. Motivated by hearing Vin Scully say on the broadcast that he wasn't available, Gibson began swinging a bat and told Lasorda he was ready to pinch-hit in the ninth.

With the tying run on base, Gibson launched a ball to right field to end Game 1 and turn the World Series in a different direction. Gibson has been around Dodger Stadium dozens of times in the years since he retired as a player, including five seasons as manager of the D-backs. Regardless of how many times he actually returns there, his spirit lives there still, strong and defiant.

Video: Side by side: Gibson and Turner both walk off

To watch these 2017 Dodgers romp through the regular season playing the game at just about the highest level possible, it was impossible not to think back to 1988 and a team that went 94-67 and got hot at the right time.

First, the Dodgers upset a Mets team that had won 100 games, and then Gibson and Hershiser led the victory over an Oakland team that had won 104 times. They were not a classically built team, one that struggled to score runs but rode great pitching night after night.

After each victory, Lasorda would turn the clubhouse into an impromptu pep rally, screaming, "Oh yeah, how sweet it is!"

And here we are again.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.

Los Angeles Dodgers