Blast from the past: Cody Bellinger’s homer gives Dodgers walk-off win over Cubs
Cody Bellinger crushed the pitch with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday, and everybody at Dodger Stadium knew where it was going, far over the wall in center field to give the Dodgers a 3-2 walk-off win over the Chicago Cubs, but Bellinger wasn’t totally convinced
“I knew I hit it well,” Bellinger said. “But I haven’t hit too many this year, so I didn’t really know for sure. I knew it was my best bolt of the year, though.”
The bolt off Cubs right-hander Keegan Thompson — Bellinger’s second home run of a frustrating season — produced thunder from the 45,420 at Chavez Ravine. It improved the Dodgers (46-31) to 10-14 in one-run games and kept them from having to further exhaust a bullpen that’s been heavily used over the last week. It was Bellinger’s third walk-off home run of his career and first extra-base hit since June 2.
“Very satisfying,” Bellinger said. “Still a long way to go. Lot of season left, lot of baseball left. No matter what, it is always nice to see a ball go over the fence.”
The scene was a throwback to 2019. Back to when the Dodgers thrilled capacity home crowds with walk-off win after walk-off win. Bellinger was often in the middle of the action, building a resume that was rewarded with the National League MVP award. Then the pandemic happened, cardboard cutouts infiltrated the stands and Bellinger never rediscovered his 2019 groove.
Last season was frustrating for Bellinger — he batted .239 with a .789 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 56 games — but his unsatisfying personal performance paled in comparison with the setbacks that awaited him.
First came the major surgery on his right shoulder after he and Kiké Hernández bashed arms in celebration of his home run in Game 7 of the NLCS last October. The procedure kept him out of spring training games until mid-March.
Three weeks later, five games into the season, a pitcher stepped on his left leg and fractured his fibula in the ninth inning of a blowout win. He missed 46 games. Less than two weeks later, he left a game with left hamstring tightness and landed on the injured list. He returned Wednesday and started the next three games in center field, going one for seven with five walks.
Bellinger wasn’t in Saturday’s starting lineup — it was a scheduled off day — and the Dodgers led early without him.
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The first inning had been rough for the Dodgers recently. They hadn’t scored a run in the first inning in a week. They had given up a home run in the first inning in five straight games. The combination meant the Dodgers were regularly playing from behind. They managed to come back to win once, on Friday, after losing four straight games.
The first inning was kinder to them Saturday. First, Julio Urías kept the Cubs (42-35) in the ballpark, striking out two to finish the inning.
Mookie Betts and Max Muncy then mashed back-to-back doubles off Alec Mills, a throwback right-hander who features a fastball in the high 80s and a curveball in the high 60s. Muncy squared up a 67-mph curveball for his RBI double.
Justin Turner took a different approach. The third baseman used an inside-out swing to sneak a ground ball to right field through an infield shift to plate Muncy, who had advanced to third base on a wild pitch. The artful piece of hitting gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. The quick start wasn’t a sign of things to come.
The Dodgers stranded the bases loaded in the third inning. They left two runners on base in the fourth. Chris Taylor uncharacteristically erred twice on the basepaths. He was caught stealing at third for the second out in the second inning. Two innings later, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras showed off his elite arm again, picking off Taylor at third for the second out.
Urías followed Taylor’s second blunder with a single to right field that should’ve made it 3-0.
Highlights from the Dodgers’ 3-2 over the visiting Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
Instead, the Dodgers didn’t score after Betts grounded out to strand runners on the corners and Mills was pulled after somehow holding Los Angeles to two runs over four rocky innings.
On the mound, Urías enjoyed his best start of the month. He recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts to one walk over 5-1/3 innings. He generated 15 swings-and-misses and 20 called strikes with his 84 pitches. No Dodgers pitcher has registered more strikeouts in a start this season.
But he couldn’t stop Chicago from tying the game. Anthony Rizzo crushed the first pitch of the fourth inning for a home run to slice the margin. The Cubs tied the score in the fifth when Jason Heyward doubled and scored on Ian Happ’s pinch-hit double.
The Cubs thought they took the lead in the seventh inning in Heyward’s next at-bat.
The former All-Star outfielder lined a pitch from Garrett Cleavinger down the left-field line that third base umpire D.J. Reyburn initially ruled a home run.
But the umpires, after protests from the Dodgers’ dugout, convened and changed the call to foul. That prompted Cubs manager David Ross to challenge the play. The ruling was confirmed. Heyward then singled for his third hit in three at-bats, but the Cubs failed to score.
“I looked back,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “and they got it right, which is very fortunate.”
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Bellinger entered with two outs in the inning to play center field as part of a double switch.
It was just his 20th appearance this season. He has started 18 of the Dodgers’ 77 games. He has spent most of the season watching, waiting for his chance to contribute, to feel part of the team.
“It’s big, it’s real,” Roberts said. “I think that we as coaches or teammates can say, ‘Hey man, you’re going to be there when you’re ready to go.’ But as a player you just feel like you want to pull your weight.”
Bellinger towed his share Saturday. It was a moment he hadn’t experienced in a long time. He hopes there are more to come.
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