With one out and two on in the top of the ninth inning of a do-or-die NLDS Game 5, Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger locked eyes with newly-minted San Francisco Giants relief ace Camilo Doval in a battle to determine whose juju would survive the night.
Would Bellinger overrule his entire 2021 campaign, spent working his way out of the Dodgers’ future plans, with one swing? Or would September bleed into October, extending the rookie Doval’s scoreless streak with the passage of time?
In the nick of time, Bellinger counteracted his remarkable -1.5 regular-season WAR with one swing of the bat, legitimately earning the Dodgers their biggest win of the season…above replacement, beyond reproach.
After battling in the previous at-bat, looking much more like the version of himself that took home the NL MVP instead of the one that could absolutely challenge for LVP, Bellinger fouled off several Doval offerings before rifling a line drive single harshly into the gap.
It nearly split the outfielders — and the Dodgers certainly wish it had, as that would’ve given LA the extra run of breathing room they never pushed across — but even so, this redemptive rocket might as well have been a five-run homer for what it should do for Bellinger’s confidence.
Dodgers star Cody Bellinger sent the Giants packing in the NLDS.
What followed in this half-inning? Eh…we don’t need to talk about it. Somebody told Chris Taylor to bunt. It didn’t work. We’re not sure who told him to do that. No more runs crossed the plate.
So let’s take it to the bottom of the ninth. Would you have gone with an additional inning of Kenley Jansen? We might’ve. As a matter of fact, let’s keep Kenl–
Wait, what’s that? Max Scherzer barged through the bullpen door, of his own accord. Got it. Max Scherzer then.
And would you believe…Scherzer didn’t quite have it? A few mis-located curveballs and changes led to a rocket to Betts, a flubbed hotshot to Justin Turner, and a caught-in-between strikeout of LaMonte Wade.
It all came down to Wilmer Flores, who tried to check on a 1-2 pitch in the dirt. He did. He checked. He made sure not to flick his wrists…according to every single person in the building except for first base umpire Gabe Morales.
Ballgame. An exact reversal of the Darin Ruf call that swung the NL West chase and sent the Dodgers on the road for this season-altering Game 5.
Almost as poetic as Bellinger playing the hero, netting his seasonal WAR back out to zero.