To hit for the cycle — a single-game compendium of a single, double, triple and home run — a baseball player requires a diversity of skills. Enough brawn to go deep. Enough agility to sprint 270 feet safely into third. Enough consistency to collect four hits in one night. Players like that usually only exist in dreams.
The cycle is a rare feat, one that occurred only three times in 2016, only four times in 2017 before Saturday. Barry Bonds never did it. Neither did Hank Aaron, or Ken Griffey Jr., or Babe Ruth. The Dodgers have played 60 seasons since moving to Los Angeles. Across those six decades, only two players produced a cycle. When considering this, of course, it is worthwhile to remember that the Dodgers played 59 of those seasons without Cody Bellinger.
“Every time he steps on the field,” manager Dave Roberts said, “something special can happen.”
In a 7-1 victory by the Dodgers over the Miami Marlins, two days after his 22nd birthday, Bellinger added another line to his resume for rookie of the year, and perhaps more postseason hardware. He singled in his first at-bat. He smashed a two-run homer, his 26th of the year, in his second. He thumped an RBI double in his third at-bat.
And then, in his fourth at-bat, in the seventh inning of a blowout, Bellinger laced a slider from reliever Nick Wittgren into right field. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton lunged for the baseball, but his 6-foot-6 frame was not tall enough to bring it down. It ticked off his glove and rolled behind him.
“It’s in the back of your mind,” Bellinger said. “But the fact that it actually went there? Yeah, it’s crazy.”
Bellinger accelerated when he saw he had a shot. He is considered the fastest player on the Dodgers, winners of eight in a row, and so he barreled around the bases. He slid into third, even though it wasn’t necessary, to join Wes Parker (1970) and Orlando Hudson (2009) in franchise lore. He grinned at third base coach Chris Woodward. Inside the dugout, Clayton Kershaw curled his fingers into a claw, making the signal to collect the baseball.
Bellinger can add the memento to an ever-growing collection. Most rookies celebrate their first hit, their first homer. Bellinger hit 21 home runs faster than any player in big league history. He was the youngest position player to ever represent the L.A. Dodgers in an All-Star game. He serves as part of the reason why Dodgers fans hope they can celebrate so much more this October.
“This week has definitely been the top of everything,” Bellinger said. “To start hearing my name at the [Home Run] Derby, and then the All-Star game, it’s definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Bellinger overshadowed an otherwise leisurely evening for his club. He paired with Yasmani Grandal to swat two homers in the third. The duo combined to drive in five runs, which sank starter Jose Urena. Alex Wood (11-0) spun six scoreless innings and did not permit a flyball out until the sixth. Wood became the first Dodger to open the season with an 11-0 record since at least 1913.
“It’s been a crazy ride,” Wood said. “I’m trying to keep it all in perspective, and always give us a chance to win every time out.”
The second inning contained intrigue. After a leadoff double by Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig came to bat. Urena fired a 97-mph fastball near Puig’s chest. Puig jumped back from the plate. He walked toward the infield grass and pointed at Urena. The Marlins bench emptied, and Roberts climbed his dugout steps to intercede.
“I thought that Yasiel overreacted,” Roberts said, explaining that Urena often misses in that spot. “It’s clear to me that there’s no intent.”
After a lengthy interlude, in which members of both relief corps half-heartedly filtered out of the bullpen, the game resumed. Puig popped out. The fans at Marlins Park showered him with hearty jeers.
Puig’s teammates waited an inning to answer. Bellinger came to bat with a runner at third and two outs. Five days earlier, competing in his first Home Run Derby here, Bellinger instructed his father to feed him pitches up and in, so he could pull them over the right-field fence. Urena was far less cooperative — but still far from effective.
With the count at 1 and 1, Urena threw a slider over the middle of the plate. Bellinger whacked it into the bullpen in right for his first homer of the second half. It was not his team’s only homer in the inning — after a walk by Logan Forsythe and a single by Pederson, Grandal crushed another slider.
An inning later, Bellinger thumped his double off a rookie reliever named Drew Steckenrider, to produce the Dodgers’ sixth run. And so Wood, a pitcher who had given up six runs in his previous nine starts, received a lead of half a dozen runs. He authored an efficient, masterful performance — and still it could not steal the spotlight from Bellinger.
Bellinger did not wait long in his fourth at-bat. He pounced on the first pitch he saw. History would soon follow.
“He’s pretty special, huh?” Wood said. “I’m so happy for him. Hopefully he can keep doing what he’s doing.”