As the Dodgers have crossed these United States this month, from Missouri to Wisconsin, to California and then through Ohio, Cody Bellinger hears the same question.
Home run derby, yay or nay?
There is a third option, one so audacious that few would dare attempt it. See, Bellinger doesn’t need a batting-practice pitcher to go deep just about every night. He is turning the Dodgers schedule into his own home run derby.
He does not need to go to the actual derby to make people take notice of his slugging prowess. He makes folks go back, back, back into the record books every time he circles the bases.
Bellinger hit two more home runs Monday at Dodger Stadium, driving in four runs and powering the Dodgers to a 10-6 victory over the New York Mets. Justin Turner had four hits, including a home run, drove in four runs and lifted his batting average to .399.
For the second straight day — this one in a game started by Clayton Kershaw, no less — the Dodgers opened up a seven-run lead but could not complete the game without closer Kenley Jansen getting loose.
Bellinger said he would love to participate in the home run derby if asked. He would get his father to pitch to him.
“It’d be cool,” he said. “I think it would be pretty special.”
He spotted the rest of the National League three weeks and leads the league in home runs.
“That’s a pretty good indicator they should invite him,” Kershaw said.
Bellinger has 21 home runs, the first major league player to hit so many in the first 51 games of his career. If he keeps his current pace, he would finish with 58, but manager Dave Roberts said it would be “absurd” for Bellinger to keep up that pace.
The franchise record is 49, by Shawn Green in 2001.
The franchise player on display Monday was Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner. For the first time in his career, Kershaw gave up four home runs. He has given up 17 home runs, a career high in a season not quite to the halfway point.
He started the seventh inning at 100 pitches. He did not finish the inning, yanked after Reyes took him deep for the second time in the game.
Kershaw walked off the field, stomped around the dugout, then kicked the bench with his right foot. He gave up six earned runs, the first time he had done so in more than three years. He said he had two options to rebound, the first of which involved extensive analysis to replay and rethink every pitch.
“Or you can say screw it and come back tomorrow,” he said. “I’m going to go with the latter.”
He also walked one batter and struck out 10, meaning the stuff was fine but the location was not. Besides the home runs, the Mets went two for 20 against Kershaw, with no extra-base hits.
Bellinger brought a buzz to the evening. He homered in his first two at-bats and, if Scooter Gennett could hit four in a game, why not Bellinger?
In the third at-bat, Bellinger struck out, twice swinging from his heels.
“I don’t blame him,” Roberts said. “I told him anybody can hit two home runs. I wanted to see him hit three myself.”
Before Bellinger’s fourth at-bat, Dodgers co-owner and Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson tweeted his congratulations to the rookie.
Two home runs, the major league record for fastest to 21, and the NL lead in home runs? As Johnson is well aware, the two words that might best describe Bellinger at this point are these:
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