SAN FRANCISCO — For a quick, fleeting second — the period of time it took Giants reliever Dominic Leone‘s sixth-inning fastball to journey from his hand to the plate — Cody Bellinger seemed just like the man who was the 2019 Nationwide League MVP.
Bellinger was balanced and fast, two parts of profitable hitting which have eluded him all season. The outcome was a two-run double to left-center that put the Dodgers forward 4-1 and set the stage for what grew to become a 9-2 win in Sport 2 of the Nationwide League Division Collection on Saturday.
Bellinger hit .165 with a .542 OPS this season, unfathomably dangerous numbers for a participant who hit .305 with 47 homers and a 1.035 OPS in his MVP season. Accidents had been a significant component. He performed simply 95 video games this yr, and a season-long shoulder damage restricted his swing protection and eroded his confidence.
When he wasn’t lunging at off-speed pitches within the dust, he was overstriding and jamming himself on fastballs inside. He has been so dangerous for therefore lengthy that Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts has needed to reply repeated questions on why he continues to place Bellinger within the lineup.
After which Leone got here into the sport to interchange starter Kevin Gausman, walked Chris Taylor to load the bases and fired a get-it-over fastball that Bellinger laced to the hole in left-center. The look on his face as he pulled up at second appeared like one thing from a 2019 spotlight reel.
“Mentally, I do not see the way it might harm him,” Roberts stated, laughing. “There can solely be upside. He is needed to make use of the massive a part of the sector, and for him to get rewarded was large. I believe there was a giant weight lifted off his shoulders.”
The Dodgers 6-7-8 hitters had been 0-for-9 with 5 strikeouts in Sport 1 however 5-for-11 with two walks and 4 RBIs in Sport 2. AJ Pollock and Bellinger had been the primary culprits in Sport 1, selecting to swing just about whatever the ball’s flight.
Bellinger struck out thrice in Sport 2, however Pollock had two hits and adopted Bellinger’s two-run double with one among his personal, successfully ending the aggressive portion of the night.
“Once you put up 9 runs, clearly everybody’s going to really feel like your strategy is sweet,” Pollock stated. “Should you put up zero, no person’s going to love it.”
A protracted season is like fluorescent lighting, harsh and unforgiving, exposing each flaw. As soon as groups sensed Bellinger’s fly-rod swing could not regulate to velocity, he received nothing however excessive fastballs he could not catch as much as and low breaking pitches he could not attain.
The Dodgers have insisted the difficulty is not a lot Bellinger’s mechanics or well being however his strategy, which is one other means of claiming his mindset, which is one other means of claiming he seems — except for one at-bat in Sport 2 — to have not one of the confidence that made him the 2019 MVP.
Bellinger has all the time proven a stage of maturity unusual to his age — nonetheless simply 26. Requested earlier than the sport how he offers with all of the evaluation of his swing, Bellinger stated, “Properly, how I am doing it proper now. I get requested the query, and I reply it.”
Requested the place he’s proper now, Bellinger stated, “I really feel 100%, you recognize? I do not know the way my physique is, however I really feel actually good.”
Bellinger went into cliché mode after the sport, selecting to deflect discuss of a private renaissance by talking about doing his job and taking part in to the state of affairs, which might have been the three strikeouts speaking. Nonetheless, with one swing in Sport 2, when one other strikeout would have led to extra disgusted bat flips on the best way again to the dugout and extra questions on his utility as an every-day participant, Bellinger put a swing on the ball.
One swing, however nonetheless — it managed to vary the current and evoke the previous.