Orel Hershiser completed one of the greatest extended runs in baseball history 25 years ago Sunday, pitching his third consecutive complete game in leading the Dodgers to a 5-2 win over the Athletics to win the 1988 World Series in five games.
The team that scored first won every game of the series, and in Game 5 the Dodgers scored two runs in the first inning for the third time in five games.
Franklin Stubbs singled with one out in the opening frame, then Mickey Hatcher continued his October magic with a home run to left field, his second of the series. During the regular season Hatcher hit one home run in 202 plate appearances.
As Hatcher's shot cleared the left-field fence, he once again broke into a home run sprint that had even his teammates guffawing. By the time he rounded third base, he had almost passed a strolling Stubbs ahead of him. Once he reached the dugout, Hatcher greeted his teammates with a parody of the A's forearm bash celebration.
"I almost broke my arm doing that," Hatcher said. "I won't do that again."
No one expected Hatcher to do what he did in the series. In 2,557 career at-bats, he had hit only 35 home runs. But there he was in the World Series, hitting home runs in 2 Dodger victories.
"I still haven't learned how to do a home run trot," Hatcher said. "I think, of the few home runs I hit, I knew that that one was going out. I really thought it was important that we score first, so that Orel could relax and not pitch with pressure on him."
Hershiser retired the first six batters he faced but singles by Carney Lansford and Tony Phillips started an A's rally in the third inning. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners up, Stan Javier lined out to Hatcher in left for a sacrifice fly, cutting the Dodgers' lead to 2-1.
But the Dodgers answered right back in the fourth. Hatcher singled to lead off the inning, and two outs later Mike Davis had a 3-0 count. Davis hit 22 home runs the year before with Oakland and hit 65 home runs for the A's from 1985-1987. But he was a free agent bust of the highest order with the Dodgers, hitting just .196/.260/.270 with two home runs in 1988 after signing a two-year, $1.95 million contract.
Scully sounded surprised that Davis was given the green light, with an inflection at the beginning of his call: "They let him swing..." Davis hit one deep into the seats in right field for a 4-1 lead.
After the Davis home run Hershiser was cruising, retiring 12 of the next 13 batters, including 10 in a row. Rick Dempsey, playing for an injured Mike Scioscia behind the plate, doubled home Davis in the sixth inning for a 5-1 lead.
This was going to happen.
But the A's mounted one more rally in the eighth inning. Tony Phillips walked, advanced to second on a ground out, then scored on a single by Stan Javier to cut the lead to 5-2. A walk to Dave Henderson brought the tying run to the plate with one out, in the form of Jose Canseco, 1-for-18 in the series at that point and 0-for-17 since his grand slam in the second inning of Game 1.
Dempsey visited the mound, but there was no way Hershiser, only at 89 pitches at this point, was coming out. Years later, Hershiser looked back on Game 5, per Josh Suchon in 'Miracle Men,' his book on the 1988 Dodgers:
"That was a driving force in the last game for me," Hershiser reflected. "I wanted to be on the mound. I visualized myself throwing the last pitch. I did not want to get taken out of that game. That was really important to me. After the 59 scoreless, and us getting to the World Series, and looking like we're going to beat the Oakland A's, and I'm on the mound.
"Everything that could have been accomplished that year was now resting on a pitcher's arm that supposedly has been able to do everything. If I let them down then, it's not good. I felt a lot of pressure in that game. I wanted to be the guy who stood on the mound at the end."
Hershiser got ahead of Canseco and on his fifth pitch got the slugger to pop out to first base. Up next was Dave Parker, the man who got three hits off Hershiser in Game 2. But just as he did to end Game 2, Hershiser got Parker on a curve in the dirt to strikeout to end the threat.
To start the ninth inning, Mark McGwire drove a ball to the wall in left center field but it died on the track and into the glove offor one out. McGwire was 1-for-17 in the series. Catcher Ron Hassey struck out looking for the second out. Former batting champion Carney Lansford stood between the Dodgers and a title, but he singled in the hole between shortstop and third base to delay the celebration.
Tony Phillips was due up next and Hershiser fell behind 3-0. Phillips, taking all the way, took two strikes to run the count full, then swung through a fastball to end the game.
"Got him," Scully said on the NBC broadcast, "They've done it, like the 1969 Mets, it's the impossible dream revisited."
Hatcher was 7-for-19 (.368) with two home runs, a double, five runs scored and five RBI in the series, but he was not the MVP. That went to Hershiser, with his two complete game wins.
Hershiser lasted at least nine innings in 12 of his final 14 starts of 1988. In a 63-day span, Hershiser threw 124⅔ innings and allowed 11 runs (nine earned), and was 10-1 with a 0.65 ERA, and one save.
In the visiting locker room, manager Tom Lasorda stood up on a chair and got his team's attention.
"Nobody thought we could win the division. Nobody thought we could beat the mighty Mets. Nobody thought we could beat the team that won 104 games. But we believed it," Lasorda said, punctuated with his arms raised as he was bombarded with champagne and beer.
The Dodgers were World Series champions.
Game 5 particulars
Home runs: Mickey Hatcher (2), Mike Davis (1)
WP - Orel Hershiser (3-0): 9 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts
LP - Storm Davis (0-2): 4⅔, 6 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts