Column: Cody Bellinger makes a claim for immortality with spectacular, game-saving catch
If the Dodgers go on to win the World Series, if they finally deliver this city a championship, what is forever known in these parts as “The Catch” won’t be the plays that were made by Willie Mays or Dwight Clark.
The moment Cody Bellinger reached over the center-field wall at Globe Life Park on Wednesday night will be played over and over for generations. The image of reliever Brusdar Graterol throwing his glove in celebration will become part of Dodgers folklore.
That was the kind of play that saves a game. That was the kind of play that wins championships.
“It’s going to take a while to wind down from that one,” Bellinger said. “That’s postseason baseball right there.”
Game 2 of this National League Division Series was recorded as a 6-5 victory for the Dodgers to extend their lead in the best-of-five series to two games to none.
What the box score won’t show is how close the Dodgers were to disaster.
The Dodgers were holding on to a 4-3 lead when Graterol replaced Blake Treinen with two outs in the seventh inning.
The Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 6-5 to take a 2-0 NLDS lead.
Standing on first base was Trent Grisham, who was plunked by Treinen. Stepping into the batter’s box was Fernando Tatis Jr.
Graterol was promptly called for a balk that advanced the runner to second base.
His first pitch was his signature sinker, one traveling at 99 mph to the outer half of the plate. Tatis connected.
The baseball soared into the Texas night.
Bellinger retreated quickly to the warning track in center field and leaped. With the left side of his torso brushing up against the wall, Bellinger raised his right arm.
Instead of clearing the padded divider, the baseball dropped into Bellinger’s opened glove.
“In my head, I was like, ‘All right, that’s gone off the black screen or I’m going to get to the wall and maybe have a chance to catch it,’ and I just kind of turned it around as fast as I could,” Bellinger said. “I got to the fence and saw that it was robbable, so I just tried to time up the jump.
“It was weird, but I knew I caught it.”
Bellinger pointed skyward with his index finger.
“Great players make great players in big moments and Cody did just that,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Back on the mound, Graterol raised his arms in triumph and violently hurled his glove in the direction of the Dodgers bench.
Graterol wasn’t finished. He pointed to the sky, pounded his chest and tossed his cap.
The one-man party in the infield enraged a Padres team known for its extravagant celebration.
Manny Machado, who flipped his bat after hitting a sixth-inning home run against Clayton Kershaw, pointed at Graterol and screamed. In response, Graterol blew him a kiss.
Max Muncy came to Graterol’s defense, gesturing for Machado to return to the Padres dugout.
Mookie Betts sarcastically waved Machado away.
Padres manager Jayce Tingler said of Bellinger’s catch: “That was the difference in the game.”
And most likely, also the play that erased whatever hope the upstart Padres had of upsetting the Dodgers.
Still buzzing from the Bellinger’s catch, the Dodgers scored twice in the bottom of the inning, adding insurance runs that proved to be valuable when soon-to-be-demoted closer Kenley Jansen melted down in the ninth.
Talk about an MVP — except in this case, the acronym stood for most valuable play.
The defensive effort embodied what these Dodgers are about. If something’s not working, they can find another way to win.
The Dodgers’ 6-5 victory over the San Diego Padres was built on high-paid stars and big-time smarts.
The NL MVP last season, Bellinger has looked out of sorts offensively for the majority for this year. An effort to alter his swing backfire, resulting in him batting under .200 into the final couple of weeks of the pandemic-shortened regular season.
On Wednesday, there was finally liftoff.
In the fourth inning, Bellinger reached down and golfed an ankle-high changeup by Padres starter Zach Davies over the center-field wall.
The contribution was welcomed, but Bellinger owed his regular place in the lineup to his defense. Three innings later, he delivered on that front as well.
“I think it speaks a lot to the character, to kind of put the regular season and the stat sheet aside to help his team win a baseball game,” Roberts said. “He’s just fighting and he’s playing every pitch defensively. That’s what MVPs should do and that’s what he’s doing.”
Bellinger became the first player to hit and steal a home run in the same game since ESPN started tracking home-run robberies in 2012, the network reported.
Bellinger’s catch was the most spectacular in a key moment since 2018, when Chris Taylor made a diving overhead catch on the warning track in left-center field to preserve a Dodgers lead over the Brewers in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.
The Dodgers went on to win that game against the Brewers but failed to beat the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. Taylor’s heroics gradually faded from Los Angeles’ collective memory.
Now, Bellinger has made a claim for immortality. His case is pending, with the remainder of this postseason determining whether his play is remembered as “the catch” or “The Catch.”
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