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Kiké Hernández’s historic run is one for the highlight reels, and few are surprised to see it

Kiké Hernández played a big role in the Red Sox' victory over the Rays to advance to the AL Championship Series.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Two decades ago, as a kid in Puerto Rico, Kiké Hernández eagerly awaited three VHS tapes from his father every year.

The first was a highlight of the best defensive plays in baseball every year, which he watched while learning to mimic the actions of the game’s elite performers in the field. The second was a reel of bloopers, a celebration of baseball’s ability to bring laughter and joy. The final one was the annual documentary looking at the path to a championship followed by each World Series winner.

Now 30 and starring on the playoff stage, Hernández represents the intersection of all three. His love of the game is intermingled with a goofiness that resulted in early-career fame for such shenanigans as dressing as a “Rally Banana” as a member of the Dodgers.


He has become an elite defensive player at multiple positions, currently helming center field for the Red Sox in spectacular fashion. And most significantly, he has emerged as a postseason force, building this October on an already impressive playoff résumé to perform at a level with few precedents in major league history.

Hernández has turned this October into a personal showcase. Through seven Red Sox playoff games — five wins — he has 16 hits and five homers in 32 at-bats.

He has collected five hits in one game (matching the postseason record) and four in another, becoming just the fourth player ever with multiple four-hit games in a single postseason. His five homers have tied a Red Sox playoff record held by David Ortiz (2004 and 2013) and Todd Walker (2003).

His sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the Rays drove in the winning run in the 6-5 walkoff victory to advance the Sox to the ALCS against the Astros.


“I’m having a lot of fun. It’s a blast,” Hernández said. “It’s October, and these games tend to be a lot of fun.”

Kiké Hernández got a ride in the laundry cart from José Iglesias after his home run in Saturday's Game 2 in Houston, his fifth of the postseason.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

His performance this October has left jaws hanging. Teammate Alex Verdugo dubbed him Kiké “The Babe” Hernández. Manager Alex Cora described him as being “en fuego.” Red Sox general manager Brian O’Halloran, who had a prime view of every Red Sox playoff game this century, compared Hernández’s postseason heroics to those produced by three-time World Series winner Ortiz.

“The length and breadth of David’s work I’m not sure will ever be [matched], but what Kiké is doing, I’ve never seen anything better in one postseason. It’s unbelievable,” O’Halloran said. “The playoffs have been something totally outrageous. It’s amazing. He’s such a fun player to watch. This is just incredible.”

Even the Red Sox’ opponents are mesmerized by the extraordinary nature of Hernández’s performance on baseball’s most-watched stage.

“Kiké is one of the best players on the planet right now,” Astros outfielder Chas McCormick said. “There’s always that one player in the postseason that’s playing unreal, and that’s kind of Kiké.”

While it would have been impossible to anticipate that Hernández might enter The Matrix this October — playing the game at a speed matched by few — those familiar with the center fielder’s body of work suggest it is not a shock to see him excelling in October.

“When he gets in a hot streak, he stays hot. He can ride it,” said Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers, who previously worked with Hernández in Los Angeles from 2016 to ′17. “Nobody expected or anticipated this, but it just doesn’t shock me. He’s on one of those rolls. Watch out.”


Hyers knows well that Hernández can be a game-changer. As a member of the Dodgers from 2015-20, he played in 58 playoff games.

Kiké Hernández is no stranger to the postseason stage, celebrating with the World Series trophy last season with the Dodgers.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

His résumé in Los Angeles included some tremendous performances. In Game 7 of the NLCS last year, he blasted a game-tying homer in the sixth inning that helped propel the Dodgers past Atlanta into the World Series on the way to the franchise’s first championship since 1988. He also had a three-homer eruption — matching a record for the most longballs in a playoff game — in Game 5 of the 2017 NLCS to clinch a World Series berth for Los Angeles at the expense of the Cubs.

Kyle Schwarber, now partnered with Hernández at the top of the Red Sox lineup, was part of the 2017 Cubs team that got Kiké'd. His recollections of that performance?

“I remember that it sucked [for the Cubs],” Schwarber chuckled. “But because of that I’m not surprised by his success [this postseason]. The guy is setting the tone for us. I think the biggest game plan for us is to try to be like Kiké.

“He’s just not overtaken by the moment. He’s not fazed by the postseason or anything like that, the fans being loud. He’s just really in tune to his at-bat. And with the way he’s playing defense, you can’t say enough about him. You just want to sit back and watch to see what he’s going to do and then follow suit.”


While Hernández is no stranger to either the postseason stage or playoff success, a “Be Like Kiké” starring role represents a new turn in his career. With the Dodgers, his role was more narrowly defined. He was a lineup staple against lefties and a part-timer against righties. Rather than having a defined positional home, he moved all over the field and filled gaps.

Last winter, as the Red Sox worked to reconstruct a roster at a time when both their second base and outfield situations were unsettled, they identified Hernández as capable of excelling with a larger profile.

Part of that evaluation was based on a belief that he had untapped offensive potential. Part of it was based on the view that while he’d been an elite defensive second baseman, he could move to other positions if it benefited the overall Red Sox roster. And at least part of the decision to sign him was made based on Hernández’s evident comfort in pressured situations — something the team viewed as a good fit for both Boston and, potentially, playoff baseball.

“I think you can go down some rabbit holes you shouldn’t if you try to just look at postseason stat lines. But we did our homework on the person,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said. “What he has done in October is backed up by who he is. He wants the big stage. That much is clear when you talk to anybody who’s been around him. And it helps, especially in Boston, where we’re looking to bring a player into this market and you’re hoping to go to the postseason, it helps to have players who are comfortable in that setting.”


Hernández does indeed fit that description. At various points this postseason, he has talked about slowing his movements on the field to relish the anticipation of taking over games and leading his team to victory.

The Red Sox are currently tied, 1-1, with the Astros in the best-of-seven ALCS. The team is three victories from advancing to the World Series. As Hernández heads his team’s unexpected charge into the second half of October, he is relishing the realization of visions formed two decades ago.

Kiké Hernández is having plenty of fun this postseason, which is no surprise to teammate Alex Verdugo (background).Jim Davis/Globe Staff

“It’s what you dream of as a kid,” Hernández said of his current starring role with the Red Sox. “As a kid, everybody is dreaming about the big leagues. Nobody is putting themselves in a situation where they’re getting one at-bat every 10 days. Everybody’s thinking about [full count], two outs, bases loaded in Game 7 of the World Series.

“I’ve never had that at-bat. But every playoff at-bat kind of feels like that. It’s fun. And once you come through once, just like winning, you experienced it once, you just want to keep doing it over and over again. You don’t want that feeling to go away. And I’ve been lucky to have had the games that I’ve had and the at-bats that I’ve had and hopefully we can have many more.”

Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.