NLCS: Cody Bellinger's explosion breathes life into the Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – Just when the fading Los Angeles Dodgers were barely visible above the horizon in this National League Championship Serie...


LOS ANGELES – Just when the fading Los Angeles Dodgers were barely visible above the horizon in this National League Championship Series, Cody Bellinger brought them back in sight in the eighth inning of Game 3. Three-point homers have a way of covering up past failures, and the Dodgers’ roster grew with the appearance of the plaque.

With five strikeouts to go into a three-game-versus-none chasm, a team that had spat with runners in scoring position faced their fair share of skeptics, even in the dugout of the Dodgers.

“We were dead in the water,” manager Dave Roberts said.

“We had some bad approaches,” added Mookie Betts.

Then, with two runners on base, Bellinger, a former MVP winner who’s struggled all season, redirected a 95 mph fastball from Luke Jackson into the stands to tie the game off. . Chris taylor singles and stole second, Mookie Betts smashed an RBI brace down center-right and the Dodgers held on to be surprising 6-5 winners on Atlanta at Dodger Stadium.

The turn of events was simply breathtaking.

Bellinger didn’t even have to swing on Jackson’s fastball, let alone smash it 399 feet above the fence in the center-right.

“The sad thing is I would do the same thing again,” Jackson said of the pitch, which was out of the strike zone.

His plan was a fast pitch and “actually I threw him better than I thought. Out of my hand I was like, ‘Oh, that’s a bullet. It’s too high. And no, it wasn’t too high. He was a good player who put a good swing on it. Quite remarkable.

Bellinger, 26, suffered the worst season of his career in 2021. He hit .165 with 10 home runs, up from the 47 he hit to win the MVP in 2019. He was particularly toothless against left-handed pitchers, at bat . .116 with a base percentage of .208 and a circuit.

Roberts explained how Bellinger hit rock bottom. Max Scherzer, acquired by the trade deadline, explained in San Francisco last week how he almost took the struggling outfielder as a project, having several private conversations with him, reminding him to keep bouncing back.

These playoffs, Bellinger made it. He hit in the winning race in the decisive game 5 of the Dodgers’ divisional series against the Giants and quite possibly saved his team’s season with Tuesday’s three-run homerun.

Until the eighth, the Dodgers had been 2 of 20 with runners in scoring position in that series. On Tuesday, they had failed to advance a base runner even to second base in third through seventh inning. Atlanta Starter Charlie Morton was unusually and dangerously absent in the first inning, walking four batters while still needing 34 pitches (just 15 strokes) to get through – and the Dodgers could still only push two runs.

But when his team needed him, Bellinger stepped in.

“Lucky for me, I had a clean slate for the playoffs and was feeling great towards the end of the regular season,” Bellinger said. “And I just tried to keep that going and keep that feeling going into the playoffs.”

Bellinger started the season returning from shoulder surgery over the winter, then suffered a capillary fracture of his left fibula that put him on the sidelines from April 6 to May 29. He failed to find his rhythm on his return, spent much of the season tinkering with his mechanics, still couldn’t get it right and, ultimately, in mid-September, after a streak. of four games in St. Louis in which he went 0 for 14, he once again tinkered with his batting position.

“We just tried to put him in a position where he can kind of go straight to the ball,” said Brant Brown, the Dodgers hitting coach. “I don’t think it’s going to end there for the rest of his career. But, for where it’s at right now, I just think it was a big change.

It has worked so far.

“It’s tough, but I think when you hit rock bottom there’s a lot of opportunity to open up and change,” said Roberts. “But to his credit, he put his hands down, figuring out he needed to hit the ball squarer, flatter, get the loop out of his swing.

“And you see the path of that bat tonight, there’s no way with an uppercut you’ll catch that baseball.”

Taylor called Bellinger with a single. Then, with most of the stadium’s 51,307 fans obsessed with the stunning home run, Taylor stole second place in a crucial play that removed the possibility of a late-inning double play. Sure enough, Matt Beaty, who entered the game as a pinched hitter, called with a bouncer at second, and instead of being doubled at second, Taylor bolted at third. Then Betts drove him home.

Closer Kenley Jansen hit the side in the ninth, drastically changing the tone of the series.

At the start of the eighth inning, it was easy to imagine Atlanta finishing that series at Dodger Stadium and progressing to their first World Series since 1999, when they were swept away by the Yankees.

Now? The defending Dodgers champion smells of blood.

“Seeing old Cody again is good for the Dodgers,” said Jansen.

“Man, pure elation. Joy, ”said Roberts. “I mean, it’s just hard to imagine a bigger hit than I can remember, really, just kind of what was at stake.”

Roberts knows the big moments. He was on second base following a steal that will live on forever for Boston Red Sox fans. This came with the Red Sox three strikeouts from elimination and saw Roberts score on a Bill Mueller single to tie Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS – David Ortiz went on to win the game with a home run at 12th. Ortiz also led the winning race in Game 5 and the Red Sox came back from a three-to-none deficit to beat the Yankees and ultimately win the World Series.

Even with that story, Roberts saw what his players made Tuesday as special.

“I just think they’re a team that obviously has a lot of momentum for this game, it’s the first game here on the road, and for us to lose 3-0 and hope for a miracle run in 2004 is a big deal. question, “said Roberts, before noting that the Bellinger homerun” turned everything upside down and that’s kind of, we have a really good ball club, but we just needed that kind of shot in the arm. And I expect this to continue until tomorrow.

“But yeah, I mean, that David hit was huge and I will be forever grateful to him. But it’s a huge success. Huge success.”

Jacques Wagner contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: NLCS: Cody Bellinger's explosion breathes life into the Dodgers
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