PHILADELPHIA -- When a player of Mookie Betts’ caliber lands on the injured list, the clichés tend to come out in droves.
Whether it’s not putting any more pressure on yourself, trying not to do too much, or simply continuing to play your own game, players routinely insist that the pressure to produce doesn’t get amped up when a big bat goes missing from the lineup.
Cody Bellinger doesn’t believe in those clichés.
Asked whether he takes it upon himself to help make up for Betts’ absence, Bellinger replied, “Most definitely, man.”
Hours after the Dodgers placed Betts on the IL with a lingering hip ailment, Bellinger launched a pair of two-run home runs, leading his team to an 8-2 win over the Phillies on another soggy night at Citizens Bank Park, a fourth straight victory for Los Angeles.
“We still have faith in a lot of the guys in here,” Bellinger said. “Everyone is coming together and playing the right baseball, but losing a guy like that always hurts.”
If Bellinger can shake off his season-long slump and regain the form that made him a two-time All-Star and the National League’s Most Valuable Player just two years ago, the Dodgers will have another powerful bat to rely upon while Betts heals.
“This is the guy that won the MVP, so to count on him is not too far-fetched,” manager Dave Roberts said. “No one expects more from themselves as he does, but obviously when you're looking at Mookie being down and guys picking each other up, he's part of that equation.”
Wednesday’s game was scoreless in the fourth, though the two teams took different paths to get to that point.
Philadelphia manager Joe Girardi held out starter Kyle Gibson, using relievers in the first two innings with a storm headed for the ballpark early in the game. Roberts sent David Price out to start the game, and while the Phillies brought Gibson in for the third after the 57-minute rain delay, the Dodgers sent Price back to the mound when the game resumed.
Bellinger stepped to the plate with one out and a runner at first base in the fourth, though he had no idea how long he would remain there. Gibson started him off with two balls, then Bellinger fouled off nine of the next 10 pitches, including six straight with a full count.
“We're both grinding; he was trying to make good pitches on me and I just continued to foul them off,” Bellinger said. “He left one over the middle of the plate that I saw well and just tried to put a good swing on it and barrel that one up.”
He did precisely that, launching a 92 mph sinker to the opposite field, clearing the fence in left-center for his third homer in four games. The 13-pitch at-bat was the longest at-bat of Bellinger’s career.
“I know he’s been struggling this year, but he’s a great hitter who has been putting a lot of great swings on the ball in his career,” Gibson said. “He fought really hard, fouled off and wasted a lot of really good pitches and eventually got the better of me.”
“It was certainly a big moment for him personally, for us, and on the more micro, I thought that changed the game,” Roberts said. “They bring their starter Gibson in to get some length and finish the game, and that at-bat right there ending on a homer was a huge lift for us and I think a little bit of a backbreaker for those guys.”
If it wasn’t, then Price’s RBI double later in the inning -- the first extra-base hit of the pitcher’s career -- might have been.
“I was walking to the plate for my second at-bat and Doc is just screaming at me to drive him in,” Price said. “That was really cool.”
The Phillies cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the fourth, but the Dodgers’ bullpen did another masterful job against a team that had won eight straight entering the series. Four relievers combined for five scoreless innings, while the offense (with a little help from Philly’s shoddy defense) tacked on three more runs in the seventh.
Bellinger put the exclamation point on the win in the ninth, pulling a two-run homer down the right-field line. The 46-degree launch angle was the highest by a Dodgers hitter since homers began being tracked by Statcast in 2015.
“We need Belli to be Belli,” Price said. “He’s been swinging the bat a lot better the last couple of days, he’s hitting some homers, having really good at-bats.”
Bellinger hit .161 (10-for-62) with one homer, four RBIs and just four extra-base hits in his first 17 games after the All-Star break, but he’s 5-for-16 (.312) with four homers, a double and seven RBIs in his past four games, looking more like the All-Star version of himself the Dodgers hope to see for the remainder of the season. He’s also got an eight-game hitting streak going.
“A lot of good things happening if you look at these last three or four games; obviously he’s hit some homers, but for us, it's the at-bat quality,” Roberts said. “He’s swinging at strikes and he's competing, so it's just really good to see him get rewarded.”