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Cody Bellinger’s walk-off blast in the ninth lifts Dodgers over Rockies

The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger follows through on his game-winning home run in the ninth inning Aug. 22, 2020.
The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger follows through on his game-winning home run leading off the ninth inning Saturday night.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

How the Dodgers missed their home fans Saturday night.

The team didn’t require a capacity crowd to secure a 4-3 win over the Colorado Rockies, with Cody Bellinger delivering the season’s first walk-off victory on a solo home run in the ninth.

It was in the celebration that the emptiness of a 56,000-seat venue set in.

“That,” manager Dave Roberts said, “was a weird one.”

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After trading runs with the Rockies all night — the Dodgers led by two early, trailed by one at the seventh-inning stretch and entered the ninth tied — Bellinger turned on the second pitch he saw from Rockies reliever Daniel Bard to send a high line drive to right.

At first, the reigning National League most valuable player wasn’t sure he’d hit it far enough. When Rockies right fielder Sam Hilliard leaped at the wall, Bellinger nervously gazed across the outfield to see whether he had been robbed — uncertain without the roar of a crowd offering immediate confirmation.

The heavily favored Dodgers’ reward for winning an eighth straight division title would be negligible, especially if the playoffs are held in a neutral bubble.

“I thought he caught the ball,” Bellinger said. “I didn’t know what was going on.”

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His reception at home plate was equally unrecognizable. Instead of a customary mob, Bellinger’s teammates huddled around him at a safe social distance and hopped up and down, their arms awkwardly raised in a ritual only this pandemic-altered season could render.

“It was kind of awkward,” said Roberts, who yelled “SOCIAL DISTANCE!” to his players as they rushed from the dugout. “I was trying to figure out what to do. We’re used to, with walk-offs, jumping on each other.”

Bellinger’s take of the celebration: “It felt like a Wii Sports game. Just jumping up and down, throwing your hands in the air.”

The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger, center, celebrates his game-winning home run with teammates.
The Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, center, celebrates his game-winning homer with teammates. “It was kind of awkward,” manager Dave Roberts said of the socially distanced gathering at home plate.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)
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Unlike their 12 walk-off wins from a season ago, the team exited the field Saturday to only its own cheers. Vacant seats have been staring back at the Dodgers — and the sport — all year. On few occasions, however, had the absence felt so clear.

“It was the first time that it would have really showed itself, as far as having the fans here, on their feet, which is always special,” Roberts said, adding: “We miss them everyday. But certainly, the climax of a walk-off, it certainly shows.”

Unusual circumstances aside, the result ensured a strong start from Dustin May didn’t go to waste.

Though the rookie right-hander took a no-decision in a five-inning, one-run, two-hit start, he strengthened his claim for both the National League’s Rookie of the Year Award (which hasn’t been won by a Dodgers pitcher since Hideo Nomo in 1995) and an increasingly important role in the team’s rotation with the playoffs almost a month away.

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Key plays from the Dodgers’ 4-3 victory over the Rockies on Saturday night.

May recorded only one strikeout but stifled Rockies hitters in other ways, leaning on a sinker that topped out at 99 mph and a slightly slower cutter that generated an out seven of the eight times it was put in play. His only blemish was a third-inning home run from Hilliard. And by the end of the night, the 22-year-old had lowered his season earned-run average to 2.79.

“I contribute a lot to the defense tonight,” May said. “I got a lot of ground balls, and the defense was pretty wonderful behind me. … I didn’t have my best stuff tonight, but I battled and kept guys off balance as much as possible and let the defense do the work.”

Once May exited, however, the team gifted the Rockies runs in the sixth (when Corey Seager’s throwing error led to an unearned tally) and the seventh (when a wild pitch from Blake Treinen allowed a runner at third to score) to squander a 2-1 lead.

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Mike Trout made a key diving catch late and hit a two-run double, Ty Buttrey recorded a six-out save and the Angels defeated the Athletics 4-3.

But the Dodgers responded again, making it 3-3 on a run-scoring, bases-loaded double-play grounder from Chris Taylor in the seventh before Bellinger delivered the final blow in the ninth, continuing to recover from his early-season slump with his seventh home run of the year.

“I’m more just focusing on the feel of my [swing] than the results,” Bellinger said. “As long as you’re feeling good, then you’ve got to trust that the results will come.”

On Saturday, they did — even if there was no crowd on hand to witness it.

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Short hops

The Dodgers sent pitching prospect Edwin Uceta home from the alternate training site and will suspend him for breaking the team’s COVID-19 safety protocols, two sources told The Times’ Jorge Castillo. The 22-year-old right-hander is ranked as the club’s No. 26 prospect by MLB Pipeline. Roberts said pregame that he was not familiar enough with the details of the situation to comment. … Roberts said Justin Turner took a hit-by-pitch off the hamstring and had some swelling postgame. Turner could DH on Sunday but likely won’t start at third.

Three takeaways on the Dodgers

Mookie Betts displayed more heads-up baserunning in Saturday’s opening inning, scoring from first base after Corey Seager singled and got caught in a rundown. Betts slid into third but got up and ran home after seeing Seager in the pickle. Betts leads the team in runs scored (22).

— The Dodgers added to their home run count courtesy of Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor’s solo shots but lost their major league lead in the category after the San Diego Padres (who began the day trailing the Dodgers by two) clubbed six against the Houston Astros. Taylor’s blast was the Dodgers’ 52nd home run.

— The Dodgers turned a rare 5-6-2-5-1 fielder’s choice to keep the score tied in the eighth, tagging out Trevor Story caught in a rundown between third base and home plate


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