Bellinger carries revived confidence in big G5

Dodgers' rookie star hits first World Series homer, RBI triple

October 30th, 2017

HOUSTON -- "READY" is the only word needed.

It appeared as the caption on his Instagram post a few hours before the classic Game 5 of the 113th World Series, accompanying a photo of him holding a bat and walking to the clubhouse from batting practice. The statement carried extra meaning on Sunday night and it said everything Dodgers fans need to know about him now that the Fall Classic is headed to a final field.

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Bellinger was 0-for-13 in this World Series after a strikeout in his second at-bat of Game 3, but since then he has been the player who this season posted a 142 OPS+, made the All-Star team and cruised to what will be an obvious National League Rookie of the Year Award. Since then, he is 4-for-7 with four extra-base hits -- a homer, triple and two doubles -- and a walk.

After a 13-12, 10-inning loss on Sunday night, the Dodgers come home for Game 6 on Tuesday down 3-2 to the Astros, but the rediscovery of Bellinger's stroke in the last two games is a huge reason their title hopes remain high.

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"Mentally exhausted right now," Bellinger said at his locker following the Game 5 thriller. "That was the craziest game I've ever been a part of, probably ever will be a part of. And got to tip your cap, they never gave up and we never gave up. We're determined. And this thing isn't over yet. We've got a bunch of resilient guys in here and we're going to come out in full force."

He is tired, but he is ready.

"It's a tough one to swallow, for sure," Bellinger said. "Mentally draining, physically draining. That's what you have with the two best teams in the World Series, going at it. That was pure entertainment and that's what we signed up for. Obviously they've got their guy [Justin] Verlander [pitching in Game 6], and we'll do what we can to hit him."

In the seventh inning of Game 4, Bellinger doubled to chase starter Charlie Morton -- uttering the word "miracle" to himself -- and then scored the tying run. In the top of the ninth, Bellinger doubled again off to drive in the decisive run as the Dodgers evened up the Series.

Bellinger spoke after that game about feeling more relaxed, and part of it might be attributed to a pep talk he received from his own starting pitcher that night, Alex Wood. The pitcher basically told Bellinger that he had the starting job, so relax.

"Just confidence, it's huge in this game," Bellinger said. "When you're not hitting and they're making good pitches, it's hard. I hit a couple mistakes and that's just how the thing rolls."

On Sunday, Bellinger was dropped out of the cleanup spot versus the left-handed . He struck out in his first two at-bats, but overall the game represented a continuation of his breakout. After Houston scored four runs in the fourth inning off starter , Bellinger responded with a three-run homer off a curve. Bellinger, given fits with that pitch all series long, drove it 378 feet to right for his first postseason blast.

At 22 years and 108 days, he became the youngest player to homer in a World Series game since in 2003.

The only players who were younger than Bellinger at the time of their World Series home runs were Andruw Jones (who hit two in Game 1 of the 1996 Fall Classic at 19 years and 180 days), Miguel Cabrera (2003, 20 years and 187 days), Mickey Mantle (1952 and '53, shortly before his 21st and 22nd birthdays), Jimmy Sebring (1903, 21 years and 190 days), Jimmie Foxx (twice in 1929, shortly before 22nd birthday) and Tony Kubek (1957, 21 years and 358 days).

Bellinger's homer had a hit probability of 69 percent, according to Statcast™. But with an exit velocity of 101 mph and launch angle of 23 degrees, similar batted balls have landed over the fence much less frequently -- 25 percent of the time.

"Just pure emotion," Bellinger said. "Kershaw's picked us up so many times this year, he didn't do what he wanted to do today. To take that lead and pick him up was pretty special."

"Everybody did as much as they possibly could to pick me up," Kershaw said. "It's a testament to our team, battled really hard. Obviously a tough one to lose."

The Dodgers couldn't hang on to the lead forged by Bellinger's shot, however, as Kershaw walked two batters in the bottom of the frame before then allowed 's three-run homer. Bellinger rose to the occasion again in the seventh, putting Los Angeles in front with an RBI triple for a temporary 8-7 lead.

It made Bellinger only the second player to hit a go-ahead home run and a go-ahead triple in the same World Series game. Kirby Puckett was the other, in his famous performance in Game 6 of the 1991 Fall Classic for the Twins.

So that made it three times within a 24-hour span that Bellinger had given the Dodgers the lead. The World Series is going back to Dodger Stadium to conclude the year in baseball, and the one word that best describes Bellinger's state of mind was posted for his about 309,000 followers.

"We did it the one game at home, lost the Game 2, and we came back," he said. "We've got a resilient team with a bunch of great guys."