Michael Wacha craned his neck, his gaze going from the plate to the sky. In right field, Jose Martinez barely moved. In the broadcast booth, Joe Davis could only repeat himself.
“Oh my gosh,” Davis said, watching the baseball sail into the right-field pavilion at Dodger Stadium. “Oh my goodness.”
Cody Bellinger’s first-inning three-run home run Monday night, his 37th of the season, was that mesmerizing.
“A monster shot,” Davis continued on the broadcast. “He’s tied with Yelich.”
Except that last part wasn’t true. In what is shaping up to be a historic home run battle, the leaderboard changes fast. Though Bellinger entered the night with the second-most home runs in MLB, trailing Milwaukee slugger Christian Yelich by one, the tables had already turned by Bellinger’s first at-bat.
At the start of play Monday, baseball’s home run leaders were: Yelich (37), Bellinger (36), Mike Trout (36) and Pete Alonso (34).
Then Yelich launched a solo shot (his 38th) in Pittsburgh at 4:13 p.m. Pacific time. At 5:57, Trout went deep (his 37th) in Cincinnati. At 7:15, Yelich hit another homer (39th) that splashed into the Allegheny River. Seven minutes after that, Alonso left the park (his 35th) in New York.
Bellinger’s moonshot didn’t occur until 7:26. According to STATS, it was just the fourth time in MLB history that the league’s top four home run hitters all hit at least their 35th home run on the same day.
“Pretty crazy day,” Bellinger said when told of the stat.
The chase for the home run crown might turn even more bizarre. Excluding the steroid era (1993-2002), there have never been more than two 50-home-run hitters in the same season. This year, Yelich, Bellinger, Trout and Alonso are all on pace to get there — and they seem to be unknowingly one-upping each other every night.
Bellinger says he isn’t purposely tracking the other home run contenders. Really, he doesn’t need to. As the numbers mount, the hunt becomes almost inescapable. Once he got to the clubhouse after the game Monday, he was immediately made aware of what had happened.
“I was not aware until after,” he said. “When I was told.”
Bellinger had been in a mini-slump during the second half of July. Over his final 12 games of the month, he went just nine for 40 with three doubles, three RBIs and zero home runs. In the five games since the start of August, he already has three homers.
“The one consistent is that he’s been in the strike zone for the entire season,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s taken his walks. His on-base [percentage] has always been good. But when he barrels it and elevates it, it’s going to leave the ballpark.”
Which is what he did to a 95 mph fastball Wacha left down the middle, looping it through the air — its exit velocity was 109.1 mph — and inside the foul pole to keep pace in the blistering home run chase.
“You don’t really feel it [off the bat],” Bellinger said. “You just kind of watch it.”