Hear this special audio segment highlighting the 1988 NLCS:
Entering the 1988 NLCS, the Los Angeles Dodgers were slatted as long shots by many over the NL’s best New York Mets. The Dodgers put together a 94-win season behind ace pitcher Orel Hershiser and his 23 wins as well as free agent acquisition and soon-to-be World Series hero Kirk Gibson. However the New York Mets rolled into the NCLS with a record of 100-60, finishing 15 games ahead of the second place Pittsburgh Pirates behind budding star Darryl Strawberry and the intimidating Dwight Gooden. As if that wasn’t ominous enough for the Dodgers, the Mets had taken ten of eleven during the regular season over the Boys in Blue, dominating them in every facet of the game. However, as the Dodgers entered the 1988 NLCS on the coattails of Orel Hershiser’s record setting 59 2/3 scoreless innings streak, the losing was the last thing on the underdog Dodger’s mind.
The Mets and Dodgers split the first two at Dodger Stadium, with closer Jay Howell blowing a two-run lead and a stellar shutout outing by Hershiser in the ninth in Game One, only to have the Dodgers respond in Game 2 with a 6-3 win behind rookie pitcher Tim Belcher.
The series would head back to Queens for Games 3, 4, and 5, all being hard-fought nail-biters between the two National League powers. The Dodgers blew another late lead in Game 3, giving up 5 runs in the 8th inning and dropping Game Three 8-4.
However, Los Angeles would respond in Games 4 and 5, winning Game 4 in the 12th inning off a Kirk Gibson home run after beloved catcher, and current Angels’ manager, Mike Scioscia blasted a shocking two-run homer in the top of the 9th to send the game to extras.
Tim Belcher came up big for the Dodgers again in Game 5 as the Dodgers went on to win 7-4 behind another Kirk Gibson home run and take the lead in the series three games to two as the two teams headed back to Los Angeles.
Game 6 was dominated by the Metropolitans behind David Cone and his complete game gem as the Dodgers dropped Game 6 by the score of 5-1.
Entering Game 7, Orel Hershiser was slated to make his 4th appearance of the postseason, this following a season where he was the work horse of the Dodger staff and had seemingly put a lot of miles on his right arm. Mets manager Davey Johnson stated before the game that the Dodger’s excessive use of Hershiser would lead to the unraveling of the Dodgers. Johnson was forced to eat his own words in Game 7 as Hershiser pitched one of the best games by a Dodger starting pitcher in club history.
Hershiser scattered 5 hits over a complete game shutout as Steve Sax helped power the Dodger offense to a 6-0 victory in Game 7 and en epic upset of the highly favored New York Mets. Hershiser earned NLCS MVP honors after pitching eight-plus innings in Game 1, six innings in Game 3, a save in Game 4, and a complete game shutout in Game 7. The stunning series upset would catapult them into an even greater upset over the American League juggernaut Oakland Athletics in the World Series.