Not much was expected of the Dodgers in 1988. They’d lost 89 games in each of the previous two seasons, and gone were the days of the homegrown infield. The Dodgers would need a miracle, or several, in order to contend.
They started by acquiring some veterans, including Jay Howell, Alfredo Griffin and Mike Davis from the Oakland Athletics. Then they made their big splash, inking outfielder Kirk Gibson to a contract to provide the lineup with a big bat and the clubhouse with a leader.
Still, it would take nothing short of a miracle to get this team into contention. And that’s exactly what the Dodgers got. Somehow, the team won 94 games, easily winning the West Division. Their reward? Facing the powerhouse Mets with a trip to the World Series on the line.
Game 1 started surprisingly well for the Dodgers, as they faced Cy Young Award winner Doc Gooden. The Dodgers scratched for an early run off Gooden, with Mike Marshall singling home Steve Sax.
They’d add another in the seventh with Alfredo Griffin driving in Mike Scioscia. Orel Hershiser took a shutout effort into the ninth before finally allowing an RBI double to Darryl Strawberry. In came Howell to slam the door, but after a walk and a strikeout, Gary Carter doubled in a pair of runs to give the Mets the lead and the game.
Game 2 was a different story. The Dodgers again scored a run in the first, but this time, they followed that with four in the second inning. Tim Belcher, in his first full season in the Majors, allowed just a two run homer while falling two outs shy of a complete game.
Mike Marshall paced the offense with three hits, while Gibson added a stolen base. Whatever momentum was gained in Game 2 evaporated in Game 3, as the Dodgers again found themselves with an early lead.
Los Angeles scored three runs in the first three innings, taking a two-run lead into the sixth. Hershiser, with little help from his defense, surrendered the lead in the bottom of the frame, as the Mets pulled even at three. The game remained tied until the eighth, when Mike Sharperson drew a bases-loaded walk to give the Dodgers a one-run lead.
The Dodgers again turned to Howell, who began the inning against Kevin McReynolds. However, the umpires were alerted to a foreign substance on Howell’s glove and he was ejected. Alejandro Pena came in and walked McReynolds, but retired the next two batters. Then, everything went wrong.
A game-tying double was followed by a walk and Jesse Orosco replaced Pena. Orosco allowed an RBI single, hit a batter and walk in a run before being replaced by Ricky Horton. Strawberry added a two-run single and the Dodgers saw the lead turn into a four-run deficit. The Mets went on to take a 2-1 series lead.
Game 4 was a do or die for the Dodgers. They were again facing Gooden and another loss would mean they’d have to win the last three games to advance. Somehow, the Dodgers managed to get to Gooden early, as John Shelby singled in two in the first inning.
The lead held until the fourth, when Strawberry and McReynolds hit back-to-back home runs to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. Gary Carter added an RBI triple in the sixth but was stranded. New York’s 4-2 lead until the ninth, where Gooden was looking to finish the game.
He started the inning against Shelby, who drew a walk. Then, up came Mike Scioscia, who had hit just three home runs that year. He jumped on the first pitch and drove it over the right field fence to tie the game. Then in the 12th, Gibson blasted a moonshot to right center field, giving the Dodgers a one-run lead.
With Howell suspended and Pena having already pitched, Tim Leary came in to close the game out. However, Leary allowed a pair of singles before recording the first out. Orosco replaced him, walking the bases loaded before inducing a popout for the second out.
With the bases loaded, two outs and a one run lead, Hershiser, who had pitched seven innings the day before, came in to record the final out. The Dodgers evened the series at two games a piece.
In Game 5, the scoring came in bunches. The Dodgers got doubles from Dempsey and Griffin in the fourth for three runs, then added three more on a Gibson home run in the fourth.
The Mets fought back for three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame on a Lenny Dykstra homer, but the Dodgers would hold onto the lead and take a 3-2 series edge, needing just one more win to advance to the World Series.
The Dodgers returned home for Game 6, but the Mets made sure it wasn’t a warm welcome. They led from wire to wire, with starter David Cone pitching a complete game. Leary lasted four innings, surrendering four runs. The offense mustered just five hits.
Hershiser allowed a single and a walk in the first inning of Game 7, but nothing else. The Dodgers’ bats jumped on Ron Darling early, scoring a run in the first and five more in the second.
However, the scoring came at a cost as Gibson, who had played through injuries all season, was removed from the game in the fourth inning after hurting his hamstring. But the injuries and offensive outburst wouldn’t overshadow the dominant performance from Hershiser, who tossed a five-hit shutout in sending the Dodgers to the World Series for the first time since 1981. It was truly a remarkable year, with moments that will never be forgotten.