Enrique Hernandez put a Hollywood ending on an LA story three decades in the making.
Fueled by Hernandez's home run trilogy, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers are finally going to the World Series.
Hernandez homered three times and drove in seven runs, Kershaw breezed through six crisp innings and Los Angeles ended the Chicago Cubs' title defense with an 11-1 victory 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 this group of Dodgers. With Kershaw firing away at the top of a deep pitching staff and Justin Turner anchoring a tough lineup, one of baseball's most storied franchises captured its first pennant since Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda managed Los Angeles to its 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.
The Dodgers 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 Los Angeles was eliminated by the Cubs in Game 6 of last year's NLCS at Wrigley Field.
He was just OK in his first two starts in this year's postseason, but Los Angeles' loaded lineup picked him up each time. Backed by Hernandez's powerful show in Chicago, Kershaw turned in an efficient three-hit performance with five strikeouts in his sixth career playoff win - matching Burt Hooton for the franchise record.
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 visitor's dugout and chanted "Let's go Dodgers! Let's go Dodgers!"
FANS HELD OUT HOPE FOR CUBS COMEBACK
"We are going to win. We have to win. We have to do it for Chicago," said Jeff Liberman, a Cubs fan, Thursday morning.
"I am confident that they are going to do well. I knew they were going to win last night because that's what they do. They rally from behind," said Kara Severson, another Cubs fan.
"We are taking our engagement photos here," said Joe Miglio. But his fiancee isn't a Cubs fan.
"She was a sport. She has her Cardinals stuff on," he said.
"Obviously, it's love," Marissa Diersen, Miglio's fiancee, said.
"I'm all Cubs all the way. We're in a tough spot right now. If any team could do it, it would be this team," Miglio said.
Some Cubs fans flew from Florida to attend.
"I waited until midnight to book a flight. My sister booked the hotel," said Kenny Kowal. "We booked it at one, we were here at six."
Some outside Wrigley came from overseas, places like Belgium and France. But they didn't quite understand what the hubbub was about - they didn't even know about the game tonight.
"No, not at all," said John Marclester, visiting from France.
Comedian Bob Newhart turned his "W" flag upside down Wednesday night to fly an "M" instead.
Fans said all they can do right now is focus on one game at time. Game 5 is another must win for the Cubs to take the series back to Los Angeles.
"If the players are nervous about winning tonight, I am just as nervous as they are," said Lupe Gomez, also a Cubs fan.
Win or lose, the faithful are sticking with their team after a great season.
"I have been a Cubs fans since I was this tall. I am with them either way," Diehl said.
REPEATING IS HARD. REALLY, REALLY HARD.
Cubs fans had the celebration of the century in 2016 after winning their first World Series championship in 108 years. They were loveable losers no more, but even better, young Cubs are young and built to be a contender for years to come. That's how they find themselves in the league championship series for the third year in a row.
But can they repeat as World Champions? Longtime Cubs writer and baseball historian George Castle said it's incredibly difficult.
"You can't bottle the exact circumstances of one year to another. That's your hangover. You're looking for that same magic, you're looking for that same sequence of events; you can't transfer it from one year to another, especially in baseball," Castle said.
Castle has written a number of books on the Cubs, including "Million to One Team" and "Baseball Game Changes." He's working on a book about the 1969 Cubs, a good example of an extremely talented team that fell short of a championship.
"So many things have to happen for you to win it all," he said.
It's not just baseball. The current Blackhawks team has won three Stanley Cup championships since 2010, but none of them back to back. The last Major League Baseball team to do it was the New York Yankees in 2000. The last time the Cubs did it was in 1907 and 1908. But Cubs fans are still holding out hope.
FAN-TASTIC! MAN WHO CAUGHT TURNER HR BALL SNAGS WRIGLEY SHOT
Remember that fan who made the great catch on Justin Turner's game-ending home run at Dodger Stadium over the weekend? Guess what? He did it again.
When Javy Baez smashed his first home run in the second inning of Game 4 the ball soared into the air and into the hands - well, glove - of a die-hard LA Dodgers fan.
"It's not really the home run ball I want coming at me, being a Dodger fan. But, uh, he hit it really hard and it was hooking. I didn't know if it was going to be fair or not," Keith Hupp said.
It was fair, and what followed was a massive mess. Hupp was close to the top row of the left-field seats - above the noted ballhawks patrolling Waveland Avenue - when Baez connected in the second inning. The ball hit a back railing and caromed into a swarm of fans, beneath a TV camera stand.
"Everyone was about half my age, but I pounced. I'll pounce if there are no kids around," he told the Associated Press in a phone interview.
"I grabbed the ball and tried to tuck it in, like a football," he said. "I got piled on pretty good, I could feel a couple guys trying to rip it out of my glove."
"I may have cracked a rib, so I was a little sore anyway. I decided to just put the ball in my pocket and be quiet," he said with a laugh. "I got lucky."
Hupp is 54, from Southern California and has rooted for the Dodgers forever. A season ticket-holder, he always sits in the outfield and has gotten 11 home-run balls this year.
Javy's homer wasn't even Hupp's first home run catch in this series. When the Dodgers' Justin Turner slammed a homer over the weekend, Hupp was the one who caught it.
"It's special to be able to do that, especially in a year like this for a Dodger fan," he said.
After that game, Hupp had to turn the ball over to the Dodgers but he was able to snap a few pics with Turner. He said no one has asked him for the Javy ball yet.
"I'm kind of hoping I can get him to sign it sometime this year, maybe at Spring Training. And I'll add it to a few other home run balls I have," Hupp said.
And Cubs fans, let's not hold it against him. He does love us.
"I love Chicago," he said.
Just not the Cubs.
Hupp planned to be at Game 5 Thursday night with Los Angeles holding a 3-1 lead. One more Dodgers win and he'd get a chance at the ultimate prize.
"I only started doing this stuff a few years ago, after I retired," he said. "But I do know that catching a home run ball at the World Series, that would be the Holy Grail."
TICKET PRICES JUMP FOR NLCS GAME 5
If fans want tickets to see Game 5 in person, it will cost them.
On StubHub, standing-room-only tickets start at $110 for Game 5, up from $65 for Game 4.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.