Los Angeles Times

Hitting just above .200, Bellinger belts his seventh career slam with two outs in the eighth inning to break open a tight game for the Dodgers.


- By Jack Harris

There was an eruption from the crowd. Air horns over the PA system. And, in a dramatic scene in the bottom of the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium on Friday night, a cathartic relief from one of the Dodgers’ most struggling hitters.

With the bases loaded and the score tied, shades of the old Cody Bellinger reappeared at Chavez Ravine.

In an 0-and-2 count with two outs, the former MVP and once-feared left-handed slugger unloaded on a curveball over the plate, blasting a monumental — and, the Dodgers hope, momentous — grand slam that sent the team to a 5-1 win over the San Francisco Giants.

“Not gonna lie,” Bellinger said, “it feels pretty good.”

Entering the eighth, Bellinger was in the midst of another bad night, in what has become

another bad season.

He was hitless in three previous trips to the plate. His batting average had dropped to .206.

And he was left in for the critical moment seemingly by default, walking into a left-on-left matchup against Giants reliever Sam Long on a night the best righthande­d bat on the Dodgers bench, Justin Turner, was out with a rib issue.

The at-bat did not start pretty. Bellinger swung through a fastball for strike one. He unsuccessf­ully called for time on the next pitch, showing frustratio­n with the plate umpire when an outer-edge curveball was called for strike two.

But then, Bellinger buckled down. He fouled off an inside curveball, an outside fastball and a down-themiddle changeup.

When Long threw another offspeed pitch over the heart of the plate, Bellinger didn’t miss again, hooking his seventh grand slam just inside the right-field foul pole.

“He’s been grinding all year,” manager Dave Roberts said. “So when you have those moments, you’ve got to enjoy them.” Bellinger did.

He flung his bat as he skipped up the first-base line. After returning to the dugout, he obliged a roaring crowd of 51,316 with a curtain call.

When he jogged out to center field in the ninth, his teammates hung back for a moment to again give him the stage — chants of “Belleee! Bell-eee!” again echoing through the night.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Bellinger said, laughing. “I looked back and it was only Freddie out there at first. But that was a cool moment.”

Before Bellinger’s blast, Friday had been all about the rotation for the Dodgers — who got a strong six-inning, one-run outing from Tyler Anderson, and good news about several other injured arms who could bolster the group by season’s end.

Anderson’s start — which included just one unearned run — was the latest in an extended string of impressive performanc­es from what has been at times a makeshift group, dropping the team’s MLB-best rotation ERA to 2.71.

The left-hander gave up his lone unearned run in the fourth, after a Max Muncy error set up Yermín Mercedes for an RBI single.

He also brushed aside some controvers­y at the outset, when the game came to a temporary halt after just four pitches because the Dodgers claimed Giants first-base coach Antoan Richardson was drifting up the line to try and determine Anderson’s pitches. “Just a little gamesmansh­ip,” Robert said. “They were doing some relaying of the signs.”

Off the field, the Dodgers got encouragin­g injury news too. Andrew Heaney returned to Los Angeles a day after the second outing of his second rehabilita­tion assignment from a shoulder issue this year. He is expected to rejoin the rotation as soon as next week.

In triple-A Oklahoma City on Friday, right-hander Dustin May took a key step in his return from Tommy John surgery, pitching two innings in his first rehabilita­tion start with a full-season minor-league affiliate since the injury.

Walker Buehler, meanwhile, told reporters Friday he will begin a throwing program on Monday, the first time he will have tossed a ball since suffering a flexor tendon strain in his right elbow.

If all goes well, he could be back in the rotation by midto-late September.

 ?? Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press ?? THE GIANTS’ Wilmer Flores forces Mookie Betts at second base and completes a double play in the second. Betts scored the Dodgers’ first run in the first inning.
Marcio Jose Sanchez Associated Press THE GIANTS’ Wilmer Flores forces Mookie Betts at second base and completes a double play in the second. Betts scored the Dodgers’ first run in the first inning.

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