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Bellinger's 2 HRs lead LA's uprising vs. Cubs

@kengurnick
June 14, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers began the roughly month-long task of winning without injured shortstop Corey Seager on Thursday night, as Cody Bellinger slugged two of their four home runs in a 7-3 win over the Cubs and lefty Jon Lester at Dodger Stadium. In a flashback to the bombs-away

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers began the roughly month-long task of winning without injured shortstop Corey Seager on Thursday night, as Cody Bellinger slugged two of their four home runs in a 7-3 win over the Cubs and lefty Jon Lester at Dodger Stadium.

In a flashback to the bombs-away Bellinger-led offense of April and May, Max Muncy and David Freese also homered to back Clayton Kershaw (6-1), a winner despite spotting the Cubs a three-run lead and allowing two homers and two walks in the same game for the first time this year. He struck out eight in six innings. Julio Urias pitched the last three innings for his third save.

Box score

What makes the Dodgers the kind of team that loses one of its hottest hitters and in the next game hits four homers?

“I don’t know. We’re just really deep,” said Bellinger, now at 22 homers and 57 RBIs. “We’ve got a lot of really good players.”

Bellinger, the leading vote-getter in the first 2019 Google MLB All-Star Ballot update, has been the best, but lately he’s been slumping. He hadn’t homered in 12 games and his average had slipped from a ridiculous .409 on May 18 to .352 coming into this game. Opposing manager Joe Maddon was told that the fans were starting to panic.

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“Of course, they have every reason to panic if he hasn't hit a homer in 12 games. He's that good,” said Maddon. “You don't make a mistake, because he's able -- like you saw -- to go left-center or pull it right down the right-field line. He's a great athlete. Just don't think of him as a hitter. He's a great athlete. He plays all over the place. He plays every position well. He can throw. He can run. He's just a good baseball player.”

The home runs by Bellinger and Muncy in the fourth inning and Freese in the fifth all went to the opposite field off Lester.

“It’s great to see the lefties hanging in there against Lester,” said Kershaw. “That was cool to see.”

“I would like to think that pitching to the big part of the field is still beneficial, but I guess it's not,” Lester said of Dodger Stadium. “I don't want to take anything away from their hitters -- they've got really good hitters. Bellinger's probably one of the better hitters I've seen, as far as his approach and not chasing and playing the game and doing all that.

“That's why he's hitting .350-something with 20-something homers. When you don't chase, it makes the pitcher come into the zone a little bit more and then, with their lineup, you definitely don't want to give free passes. I think his numbers and everything kind of speak for themselves when it comes to that.”

Bellinger shared credit for his outburst with Dodgers hitting coaches Robert Van Scoyoc and Brent Brown. This was his second multihomer game of the year and ninth of his career. He’s batting .410 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs at home this season.

“I’ve been feeling good, but the results haven’t been there in the game,” said Bellinger. “Keep grinding in the cage, and it was nice to see the results today.”

Lester allowed only one of the first 11 batters to reach base. But when Freese struck Lester in the left foot with a comebacker, it was the first of eight hits for the next 11 batters.

“Really good at-bats tonight,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Just collectively, really nice to see.”

Included was Muncy’s 16th home run, third in two games, fourth in four games and 11th in the last 40 games. Freese was making his first start in a week, limited by nagging right knee tendinitis, yet now up to eight home runs in only 104 at-bats. He has four homers in June and a 1.054 OPS on the season.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.