Cody Bellinger sits, but Dodgers still roll to 11-2 win over Diamondbacks
Cody Bellinger still joked with hitting coaches, laughed through his Dodger-blue face covering and frolicked around the batting cage between his turns to swing during pregame batting practice.
If the reigning National League most valuable player was bothered by being removed from Saturday’s lineup — given an early day off amid a five-for-36 start to the season — he didn’t show it.
“He wanted to be in there tonight,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But I just felt [it was time] to give him a little blow, get Matt Beaty in there, give him some at-bats, and get Cody back in there tomorrow.”
The plan worked. Bellinger got some extra cage work, Beaty hit a home run as part of a mid-game ambush by the Dodgers’ offense, and Roberts watched his team cruise to an 11-2 thumping of the Arizona Diamondbacks — depth and development working hand in hand as the team improved to 4-1 on this nine-game trip and 6-3 on the season.
“For Cody to sit back and cheer on his friends, his teammates, was a good thing,” Roberts said. “He’s recharged.”
Bellinger’s absence was the biggest pregame story. The center fielder had faltered in the season’s first eight games, failing to translate summer swing changes to the regular season or rediscover his trademark power from the left side of the plate.
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Bellinger entered Saturday near the bottom of the majors in both traditional stats (a .139 batting average, .372 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and only one extra-base hit in 39 trips to the plate) and advanced metrics (according to Statcast, he had a well-below-average “hard hit percentage” of 16.7 and was grounding more than half of his batted balls).
Even with the Diamondbacks (3-6) starting a right-hander in Luke Weaver, Roberts elected to give Bellinger a break after a 0-for-16 slump.
“I don’t think he looks completely comfortable, he’s still trying to figure some things out,” Roberts said during a pregame video conference call, positing that close calls and bad counts had saddled Bellinger while also acknowledging the two-time All-Star is trying to revert back to his 2019 mechanics.
“In the initial summer camp, [his swing change] was more drastic,” Roberts added. “I think over the last five to seven days, he’s trying to go back to what he did last year. Optically, it looks similar, but the production just doesn’t happen quite that easy.”
Bellinger appeared to take a positive step during his pregame hitting session, launching several pitches over the wall in right. After one impressive stretch of barreled-up swings, Roberts applauded in approval.
“I’m very confident [of] him getting back to what he did last year,” Roberts said. “He’ll find some comfort in his swing. I know the production will be there.”
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The Dodgers didn’t miss a beat without him Saturday. Rookie Edwin Ríos erased an early one-run deficit by smashing a two-run homer 434 feet in the fourth. Beaty lined his first long ball of the season around the right-field foul pole two batters later.
“I was just trying to hit the ball halfway as far as Eddie did a couple at-bats before,” joked Beaty, a longtime minor-league teammate of Ríos in the Dodgers’ farm system.
“We’ve got to make sure we get Eddie and Matt at-bats, start games,” Roberts said of the pair. “When they can come out there and get big hits, it’s going to help them throughout the season and get guys like Cody off their feet once in a while.”
In the fifth, the Dodgers scored five runs before making an out courtesy of a two-run Justin Turner triple, Joc Pederson RBI single and AJ Pollock two-run homer. In the eighth, Chris Taylor deposited a three-run blast in the right-field bleachers.
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With plenty of breathing room, starter Julio Urías completed a six-inning, two-run, five-strikeout start and the Dodgers’ bullpen received three perfect innings from Brusdar Graterol, Dennis Santana and Jake McGee.
“I always ask the question: What makes good managers? Good players,” Roberts said, praising his deep roster once again. “We have a lot of good players. The opportunity for those guys to play, to participate, to contribute was huge.”
The Dodgers optioned pitcher Tony Gonsolin on Saturday, one day after his scoreless four-inning start. Reliever Mitch White was recalled from the team’s alternate training site.
Roberts removed Corey Seager in the sixth inning after the shortstop felt a calf cramp resulting from a foul ball in Friday’s loss. He will be reassessed before Sunday’s series finale. Right fielder Mookie Betts was also substituted in the seventh with minor leg tightness, though Roberts said he felt fine after the game.
Three observations on the Dodgers
— Corey Seager continues to swing a hot bat for the Dodgers, tacking on two more hits to raise his batting average to .361. Seager has a five-game hitting streak and an extra-base hit in four straight.
— After throwing 28 pitches and surrendering a run in the first inning, Julio Urías settled down. In his final five innings, he allowed only three hits and let just one baserunner reach scoring position.
— All 11 Dodgers who came to the plate reached base safely and the team’s 11 hits were spread out among 10 players. They also left just five men on base, a season low.
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