The Los Angeles Dodgers entered the bottom of the eighth inning on Tuesday needing something. Literally anything. They had four hits up until this point. The few times they actually got a runner on, either a double play killed whatever momentum may have existed, or a slow burn saw batter after batter strike out or pop out. Misery.
So when Will Smith ripped a leadoff single, this inning felt different than the others. When AJ Pollock squeezed one up the middle with two strikes, it was starting to feel a little special.
That’s when Cody Bellinger stepped into the batter’s box. He had been on his way to erasing his egregious performance in the regular season, during which he hit .165 with a .542 OPS. A 45 OPS+. This is a former MVP and Rookie of the Year we’re talking about! And he just turned into arguably the worst player in MLB. An unthinkable turn of events.
Though Belli’s postseason up until Tuesday was impressive (he was a catalyst in the NL Wild Card Game and delivered two of the clutchest hits in the NLDS against the Giants), he still needed a signature moment this October to really make the stink from April to September fully dissipate.
Down to his last strike, he did just that. All is forgiven. We don’t even have to reference Bellinger’s 2021 regular season anymore.
Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger’s clutch home run erased his poor regular-season play.
The Dodgers were five outs away from facing an insurmountable 0-3 hole in the NLCS. Only ONE time in history has such a deficit been recovered, and with the way the bounces have been going for Atlanta, despite how complete the Dodgers’ roster is, fans knew what the ultimate outcome would’ve been had Bellinger not taken that Luke Jackson fastball for a ride into the right field seats.
Bellinger’s seismic momentum-shifting hit then birthed another eighth-inning rally, which saw Chris Taylor single and steal second base before Mookie Betts came through in the clutch with an extra-base hit of his own.
That set the table for Kenley Jansen in the top of the ninth. With this energy rocking Dodger Stadium and with the way he’s been pitching this season, did you really think there was any sort of possibility he wouldn’t shut the door with ease?
The Dodgers’ closer struck out the side. Adam Duvall. Joc Pederson. Austin Riley. See ya. Dodgers win, 6-5.
After the game, Bellinger was asked, “What is it about postseason Cody Bellinger?”
His response? “A fresh start.”
Indeed. Now the Dodgers have one, too. Down 2-1 instead of 3-0? They just dodged the biggest baseball bullet there is.