The ballpark hushed as the baseball soared through the early-evening sky. The crowd had pinned its hopes on Cody Bellinger as he ripped a drive into right field, but now they sounded unsure. A few steps outside the batter’s box, Bellinger tracked the ball’s flight, waiting to see if it was fair or foul.
The glare of sun disguised the ball for a moment before it emerged, a flicker of white colliding with the yellow foul pole for a stunning, uplifting grand slam for Bellinger and the Dodgers in a 21-5 victory over Milwaukee. Bellinger greeted the result with a mixture of euphoria and disbelief. He raised his arms above his head, looked back toward his dugout and bounced toward first base. His teammates danced in the dugout as the fans stamped their feet in the aisles.
“I lost it in the air, and I didn’t really know where it was,” Bellinger said. “When I saw it hit the pole, I was pretty excited.”
A baseball stadium in August cannot replicate the tension and terror of a playoff game. But it can offer a reminder of what awaits. This park rocked and reeled in similar fashion all last October. On Thursday, the Dodgers (61-49) offered a preview for how it may aim to replicate that atmosphere in two months in splitting a four-game series with Milwaukee and setting a record for runs at Dodger Stadium.
Keyed by Bellinger’s first homer in a month, the offense went deep seven times. Joc Pederson homered in the Dodgers’ first at-bat of the game. Bellinger broke the game open. Yasiel Puig padded the lead with a solo shot in the fourth. Brian Dozier launched his three-run blast in the fifth for his second homer in his second game as a Dodger — the same number of home runs hit by Dozier’s predecessor at second base, Logan Forsythe, in 211 plate appearances in 2018.
The homers did not abate. Back from the disabled list, Justin Turner cranked a two-run homer in the sixth. Pederson drilled a three-run shot in the seventh as the game reached a point of excess.
After Pederson’s second homer, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell subjected utility man Hernan Perez to his second outing on the mound against the Dodgers in two weeks. Perez yielded six hits, including a two-run homer for Puig, as the offense piled up nine runs in the seventh inning.
The night-long surplus created room for Clayton Kershaw (5-5, 2.55 ERA). He struck out seven Brewers across six innings of two-run baseball.
The day started with a sideshow. The Dodgers opened their ballpark to comedian Kevin Hart during batting practice. Hart was filming a segment for his show on YouTube. A crowd of observers cheered when Hart made contact at the plate.
The game itself marked the seventh meeting between these two teams in the last 14 days. Milwaukee lost two of three at Miller Park after the All-Star break, then captured the first two in Los Angeles this week. A walkoff homer by Yasmani Grandal on Wednesday offered the Dodgers a chance for a split.
Grandal was less useful in the top of the first inning. He could not corral two wild pitches from Kershaw as Milwaukee took an early lead.
Pederson evened the score in the bottom of the inning. He crushed a hanging splitter from Milwaukee starter Jhoulys Chacin. The blast gave Pederson 15 homers for the season.
Chacin led off the third inning by pulling a 90-mph fastball down the third base line for a double. An infield single by Lorenzo Cain added to the burden.
“You’ve got to bear down after that,” Kershaw said. “The game can spiral out with the top of the order coming back up.”
Kershaw found a way to escape. He iced Christian Yelich with a 92-mph fastball at the knees for the first out. Jesus Aguilar lined out to third for the second. With the runners still at the corners, new Milwaukee second baseman Jonathan Schoop struck out on a curve. The ball skipped by Grandal, but the catcher recovered in time to throw Schoop out at first base.
Schoop aided the Dodgers’ offense soon after. He fumbled a grounder from Pederson for an error. The sloppy defense continued when Manny Machado lined a single up the middle and Pederson scored when the throw from center got loose.
From there, the Dodgers waited out Chacin. Turner let a slider hit him in the back. Grandal took a walk. The bases were loaded for Bellinger, who had stumbled through a slump for more than a month. Bellinger hit .228 with a .683 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in July. In his last 27 games, he had struck out 27 times and collected only 21 hits. Before Thursday, he had not homered since July 1.
“Cody needed it, for sure,” Kershaw said.
Bellinger whacked an 0-1 slider into the right-field corner, where the pole awaited. The rout was on.
An inning later, Puig vaporized another slider from Chacin for his 13th homer of the season. Dozier benefited from a matchup with Brewers reliever Matt Albers in the fifth, going deep for a three-run shot and a 10-2 lead.
“There’s no letdown, one through nine, which makes an offensive team really good.” Dozier said. “A lot of guys who can do a lot of different things.”