Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1988 NLCS: Hershiser's Revenge

How They Got Here
The National League in 1988 belonged to Orel Hershiser. The Dodgers ace, who had pitched them to the playoffs three years before, went on a run unlike any in baseball history in the later stages of the season. Hershiser started throwing shutout after shutout, eventually breaking Don Drysdale's record of 58 consecutive scoreless innings by getting to 59 1/3. What was more impressive was that those were the final 59 1/3 innings Hershiser pitched in 1988, giving the Dodgers the boost they needed to win the NL West.

Their opponents in the NLCS were the Mets. After winning the World Series in 1986, the Mets had a bit of a championship hangover in 1987 before bouncing back in 1988 and cruising to the NL East title. They were widely seen as the superior team to the Dodgers, but everybody knew the Dodgers had Hershiser, the ultimate ace in the hole.

As expected, the Dodgers sent Hershiser out to the mound for Game 1. As expected, he shut down the Mets, throwing 8 shutout innings. But the Mets got to Hershiser in the ninth, scoring one run while he was in the game and two more after he was pulled to steal Game 1 3-2.

Their ace beaten, the Dodgers responded by winning Game 2, then got a break when rain started to fall. By the time the skies cleared, enough time had lapsed that the Dodgers could send Hershiser out again for Game 3. But again, the Mets got to him, this time for three runs in seven innings. Though the Dodgers took the lead in the eighth, five New York runs in the bottom of the innings gave New York the 2-1 series edge.

Again, the Dodgers responded, winning games 4 and 5 to go back home with the lead. And though they lost Game 6, they had their ace back on the mound and ready to go for Game 7.

The Game
The Dodgers had wasted two sterling efforts from Hershiser already this series. They weren't about to do that a third time. After he got through the first, the Dodgers were quick to give Hershiser some support, scoring on a Kirk Gibson sacrifice fly. Hershiser set down the Mets in the second, and then it all happened. Four hits and an error gave the Dodgers three runs in the second, and they managed two more runs that inning without getting any more hits. It was 6-0 after two innings, with Hershiser on the mound. Good night, Mets, and good luck. Hershiser finished off the Mets with a complete-game shutout, capping a LCS in which he had given up only three earned runs in 24 innings, yet had only gotten one win. But the one win was the one that counted, and the Dodgers were off to the World Series against Oakland.

If the Dodgers were underdogs against the Mets, they were even bigger ones against Oakland, who boasted one of the best teams of the 80s. Led by the Bash Brothers of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, they were supposed to roll right over the Dodgers, who were without the injured NL MVP Gibson and would likely only have Hershiser for two games of the series.

But then a funny thing happened. Gibson hit a home run that shook the baseball world, Hershiser pitched a complete-game shutout in Game 2 only three days rest, and the A's went home unexpectedly down 2-0. Oakland bounced back to win Game 3 on a walkoff home run by McGwire, but the Dodgers stole Game 4, then handed the ball to Hershiser for Game 5. Game, set, match. Hershiser finished his remarkable season with another complete game, and the Dodgers won their second championship of the 80s

The Rundown
What I'm doing.

The list so far:
21. 1988 NLCS: Los Angeles 6, New York 0
22. 2004 ALCS: Boston 10, New York 3
23. 1986 ALCS: Boston 8, California 1
24: 1996 NLCS: Atlanta 15, St. Louis 0

Still to come:
1972 NLCS: Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh
1972 ALCS: Detroit vs. Oakland
1973 NLCS: Cincinnati vs. New York
1973 ALCS: Baltimore vs. Oakland
1976 ALCS: Kansas City vs. New York
1977 ALCS: Kansas City vs. New York
1980 NLCS: Houston vs. Philadelphia
1981 NCLS: Los Angeles vs. Montreal
1982 ALCS: California vs. Milwaukee
1984 NLCS: Chicago vs. San Diego
1985 ALCS: Kansas City vs. Toronto
1987 NLCS: St. Louis vs. San Francisco
1991 NLCS: Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh
1992 NLCS: Atlanta vs. Pittsburgh
2003 NLCS: Chicago vs. Florida
2003 ALCS: Boston vs. New York
2004 NLCS: Houston vs. St. Louis
2006 NLCS: New York vs. St. Louis
2007 ALCS: Boston vs. Cleveland
2008 ALCS: Boston vs. Tampa Bay

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