There was a burst from the crowd. Air horns above the PA system. And in a dramatic scene at the end of the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium on Friday night, a cathartic relief from the Dodger batsman who perhaps needed it most.
With the bases loaded and the score tied, shades of old Cody Bellinger finally reappeared in Chavez Ravine.
In a 0-and-2 count with two outs, the former MVP and once-feared left-hander discharged across the plate on a curveball, blasting a monumental — and, the Dodgers hope, momentous — Grand Slam that sent the team to a 5th 1-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.
“I’m not going to lie,” Bellinger said with a big smile after the game, “it feels pretty good.”
By this point, Bellinger was in the middle of another bad night, into another bad season.
He has been hitless on three previous trips to the plate. His batting average was down to .206. And he continued to look like a very different player from the one who burst onto the big league scene half a decade ago, winning 2017 rookie of the year and 2019 MVP during a 47-home run campaign.
Despite Bellinger facing a left-vs-left match against Giants helper Sam Long, Roberts almost defaulted on him, unable to turn to injured right-hander Justin Turner and not wanting to risk that the Giants summoned a right-hander if he knuckled Hanser Alberto.
So the critical moment belonged to the 27-year-old midfielder.
The at-bat didn’t start well.
Bellinger swung through a fastball for the first shot. He unsuccessfully called for time on the next pitch and showed frustration with the plate umpire when an outer edge curve ball was called for the second shot.
“He set him up quickly,” said manager Dave Roberts. “Tries to mess with his timing.”
Bellinger, however, then buckled up. He fouled an inside curveball, an outside fastball, and a down-the-middle swap.
He didn’t particularly like any of the swings—”I rolled over a few balls,” he said—but he’d at least kept the fight alive.
“To go down the count at 0-2 and not give that shot away says a lot about Cody,” Roberts said.
In the next spot, Bellinger delivered one of the loudest moments of his otherwise quiet season.
Long threw another off-speed pitch across the heart of the plate. Bellinger took a powerful hack that didn’t miss. The ball bounced off his racquet at over 103 miles per hour. It hooked into the foul pole in right field for its seventh career grand slam.
“It feels good to swing the ball properly and see the results,” Bellinger said.
“He’s been grinding all year,” Roberts added. “So when you have those moments, you have to enjoy them.”
He threw his bat as he jumped the first baseline. After returning to the bench, he was persuaded by gymnast and bench coach Bob Geren to sign a roaring crowd of 51,316 with a top-step curtain.
As Bellinger jogged into midfield in ninth, his teammates hung back for a moment to let him take the stage again – chants of “Bell-eee! Bell-eee!” continued to echo through the night.
“I didn’t know what was going on,” Bellinger said, laughing. “I looked back and it was just Freddie [Freeman] first out there. But that was a cool moment.”
For Bellinger this season, or even last year when he was struggling with injuries and batting just a .165, there have been few occasions when he has come this close to his old best.
“This is a guy who’s a former MVP,” Roberts said. “He knows the moments and he asserted himself in those moments. So you just have to keep letting guys like that out there walk and believe that things will change.
Before Bellinger’s explosion, the most notable moment of Friday’s game came after just four pitches.
During the opening at bat, play was halted when Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior came to the mound for a meeting with starter Tyler Anderson.
The Dodgers dugout believed that Giants first base coach Antoan Richardson was attempting to relay pitch signals and alleged to the umpires that Richardson walked out of the coach’s box near base and several steps down the foul line went up to supposedly take a look inside Anderson’s glove.
“Just some gimmicks,” Robert said. “We wanted to get this trainer in the box and let Tyler do his thing.”
After Prior returned to the dugout, all four umpires huddled together before one went to chat with Giants manager Gabe Kapler.
A few moments later, the game finally resumed.
“I think that’s part of the game,” Anderson said. “They just thought maybe he was doing something there, so they were just trying to tighten up a bit.”
The rest of Anderson’s start went smoothly. In six innings, he gave up just one unearned run. He hit six while only walking two. He lowered his season ERA to 2.79.
In contrast to Thursday night’s near-disastrous start to the series, the Dodgers’ bullpen also held it together as Alex Vesia wiped out the Giants’ biggest threat by stranding a couple of runners at the top of eighth.
Moments later, the Dodgers loaded the bases for Bellinger.
In a heroic moment reminiscent of brighter days earlier in his career, he delivered a thunderous, decisive blow.
“I’m sure I’d still be happy,” Bellinger added. “But [facing an opponent] In division, big game, that was pretty good.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-07-22/cody-bellinger-grand-slam-dodgers-win-giants-mlb Cody Bellinger delivers grand slam in Dodgers’ win over Giants