Cody Bellinger Saves the Dodgers Season

With five outs to go until the Dodgers fell into a 3 games to 0 series deficit, the Dodgers' resurgent slugger cracked a three-run homer to give Los Angeles life.

It’s getting to the point now where it’s hard to think of the most thrilling Dodger games I’ve ever seen that didn’t include of a bunch of sad Atlanta Braves in the background. Maybe those Atlanta uniforms triggers something Pavlovian in Cody Bellinger’s head, too. I’m actually starting to worry about Atlanta fans. Because for as magnificent and jaw-dropping as that come-from-behind victory was for the Dodgers in game 3 yesterday, Braves fans have been seeing Dodger blue in their nightmares for much longer than the last 24 hours.

First there was the Juan Uribe game way back in 2013 at the start of this run of excellence for the Dodgers. Who can forget watching Craig Kimbrel stalk around the bullpen madder than a wet hen when Freddi Gonzalez didn’t bring him into the ninth inning of game 4 of the NLDS. (The Braves were eliminated minutes later.) Then there was the Braves promising young 2018 team that the Dodgers chewed through again in the first round. In 2020, the Dodgers came back from two games to none and three games to one in the NLCS to knock the Braves. Guess who hit the home run to crush Atlanta’s dreams in that series? Bellinger. And yesterday it was Bellinger again.

With one out and two on in the 8th inning, Bellinger choked up and took a deep breath, just like he did in before he got the game winning hit in the NLDS over the Giants. Luke Jackson threw a fastball too high for anyone to catch up to, or so he thought. A newly emboldened Bellinger said after the game he wasn’t looking for a high heater there. It appeared as if he just closed his eyes and swung. Then this happened:

Bellinger hit that fastball ten rows into the left field pavilion to tie the game and bring the Dodgers season back from the brink. Jackson said after the game that he wouldn’t have done anything differently, and he’s right. Ninety-nine times out of a 100 Jackson gets a punch out on that fastball. Tt was damn near at Bellinger’s chin! More than one person sent me a gif of Kit from A League of Their Own telling her sister Dottie Henson “I like the high ones,” after Dottie implores her to stop swinging at bad pitches up near her eyes.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard Dodger Stadium as loud, outside of that Uribe game and maybe game 1 of the 2017 World Series. I know I’m prone to hyperbole, but I really can’t think of a better game at Dodger Stadium since Kirk Gibson hit that home run in 1988. This stat seems to back up my feeling:

As successful as the Dodgers have been over the past decade, their fans haven’t gotten to celebrate a pennant or World Series clinching win at Dodger stadium. LA won the 2017 pennant in Chicago. They won the 2018 pennant in Milwaukee. They won the 2020 pennant and World Series in a Covid-19 bubble in Texas. (The Dodgers actually won the 1988 World Series on the road in Oakland as well but at least LA fans got to witness that Gibson homer).

I wrote yesterday in the chat that even though I don’t have a personal relationship with Cody Bellinger, his postseason success has made me surprisingly emotional (not unlike how my sister cries during the NFL draft because she’s so happy for the kids who get to go live their dreams). I didn’t cry when Bellinger got that hit, but my goosebumps had goosebumps. Can anyone write a better story than a guy who had a historically bad season at the plate coming up with the hit to rescue the Dodgers season? And if we count what he did in the NLDS, he’s now done it twice!

Man, I was so convinced the Dodgers were going to lose and fall behind three games to zero that I was actively brainstorming to-do lists and hobbies to pick up after the baseball season ends so I can get a life. In my defense, even Dave Roberts said after the game that until that Bellinger homer his team looked “dead in the water.”

But one swing of the bat changed everything. What a brutal, brutal game for Braves fans.

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Bellinger has needed to be unstoppable because the Turners have been a mess. I have confidence that NL batting champion Trea Turner will figure a way out of the slump that saw him go 1-for-5 yesterday bringing his average down to .214 this series. I do not share the same optimism about Justin Turner, whose 0-for-3 dropped him to .143. Normally I’d say stick with the guys who brought you here, but Justin Turner looks hurt and hobbled. I’m not calling for the Dodgers to bench him, because the alternatives at third aren’t that appealing, and the Dodgers’ back-up players have not been great this year. But it wouldn’t hurt the Dodgers to move JT down from 5th in the order to, say, 7th or 8th.

Gavin Lux should not be playing center field for the first time in his life when the NL pennant Is on the line. I know he had six games or whatever of experience out there in the regular season and the Dodgers want his bat to help replace Max Muncy. But gosh, can’t they stick him in left and play Chris Taylor in center? I understand that Lux told them he’s more comfortable in center field than in left, but did anybody else get a vote?

Julio Urías needs to be great today, full stop. He was just OK in game 5 of the NLDS, and he was bad in game 2 of this series (though Roberts never should have brought him in that game in that spot). The Dodgers are smelling blood, and they need to take advantage by winning today while the Braves throw a bullpen game. I was stunned yesterday when Walker Buehler let Gavin Lux’s misplay and a bad call on what should have been strike three call to Joc Pederson rattle him into giving up four runs. It will not be enough for Urías to just be okay today. He will need to collect as many outs as possible to preserve the relief corps, too, as the Dodgers will throw their own bullpen game tomorrow.

I really thought I’d be writing the Dodgers’ obituary tomorrow. Instead I am looking up flights to Boston and Houston, just in case. One swing of the bat can change your plans. And if you’re Cody Bellinger, it can save a season.