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Dodgers 1st to 20 W's -- now faves to win it all?

Surging Bellinger, lefty bats get help vs. rival Giants
@kengurnick
May 1, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- For nearly five weeks Cody Bellinger ignited the Dodgers, coming out of the gates fast, but on the last night of the month his right-handed-hitting teammates took charge. David Freese, Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner homered, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes added RBI extra-base hits and the

SAN FRANCISCO -- For nearly five weeks Cody Bellinger ignited the Dodgers, coming out of the gates fast, but on the last night of the month his right-handed-hitting teammates took charge.

David Freese, Enrique Hernandez and Justin Turner homered, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes added RBI extra-base hits and the Dodgers coasted to a 10-3 rout of the Giants at Oracle Park.

“We take pride in our roles and we want to do our part,” said Freese. “We have a good enough team that we can falter and still get victories. That’s not always going to happen. Belly’s not always going to be Player of the Month with the best April in history.”

The Dodgers finished March/April 20-12, becoming the first team this season to win 20 games, despite the struggles of their right-handed hitters. The first team to 20 wins in each of the previous three seasons (2018 Red Sox, 2017 Astros, 2016 Cubs) has won the World Series, though it should be noted that the 2017 Nationals got there on the same day as the eventual champion Astros.

“If you look at the guys that have hit left-handed pitching throughout their career, really haven’t yet,” said manager Dave Roberts. “It’s a long season. We’re going to face a lot of lefties this week and I think the numbers will start to correct.”

The Dodgers have been led by their left-handed hitters, and they’ve been led by Bellinger, who scored twice Tuesday night to improve on a remarkable start for the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year who has broken records and dominated MLB leaderboards.

Bellinger went 1-for-3 with a walk in the Tuesday win, a single giving him 97 total bases and extending his MLB-record in March/April (since 1900). He has the most RBIs (37) by any player before May 1 since RBIs became a stat in 1920. His 14 home runs are tied with Christian Yelich (2019), Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Albert Pujols (2006) for most before May 1 in MLB history. He’s reached base in 30 of 31 games played.

Bellinger leads MLB in average (.431), homers (tied at 14), RBIs (37), on-base percentage (.508), slugging percentage (.890), OPS (1.398), hits (47), extra-base hits (21), total bases (97) and runs scored (32). Earlier in April, he joined Willie Mays as the only players with at least seven homers and 18 RBIs in the first 10 games of a season, after joining Eddie Mathews and Alex Rodriguez as the only players with six homers and 16 RBIs through the first eight games of a season.

While Bellinger has led a potent group of Dodgers left-handed hitters -- joined by Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Alex Verdugo and Corey Seager -- their right-handed hitters have struggled producing until Tuesday night. With A.J. Pollock out hurt, most of the rest went off.

Freese’s home run came with no outs in the fourth inning after a leadoff walk to Turner and a Bellinger single off Giants starter Drew Pomeranz. Freese lofted a high 3-2 changeup toward Levi’s Landing, which hit just atop the façade. First-base umpire Tim Timmons was quick to rule it a home run and the Giants didn’t challenge.

Freese, who broke out of an 0-for-18 slump with a single Monday night, is considered a specialist against left-handed pitching, but he was only 1-for-17 with seven walks against lefties before the home run.

“My swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be, especially against lefties, even though I’ve been getting on base,” said Freese, who is hitting .233. “I haven’t had the easiest road on the field. Just keep working.”

Taylor doubled with the bases loaded in the sixth when right fielder Steve Duggar misjudged his leap.

“He needed it. It was obviously a big hit for us, but I think for him personally it was big. You could see the exhale,” Roberts said of Taylor, who is hitting .171.

Barnes, now hitting .219, followed with his two-run double in a six-run inning and Hernandez then homered, his sixth. Turner led off the seventh with his first homer, to center field.

“I wasn’t happy with the number of strikeouts and the slugging, but other than that, I feel I’ve been swinging the bat well,” said Turner. “I feel relieved to finally get that out of there and stop talking about being the only guy on the team without a homer.”

Dodgers starter Walker Buehler (3-0) retired 11 straight batters at one point and struck out six, but hit the wall after 5 1/3 innings and 95 pitches. The Giants scored in the second inning when he walked the leadoff hitter, Brandon Belt, who came around to score after singles by Evan Longoria and Kevin Pillar. San Francisco chased Buehler in the sixth with a one-out RBI double by Buster Posey and an RBI triple by Belt.

Matt Beaty, recalled before the game, singled in his first Major League at-bat as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning.

“It still hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Beaty. “On a big league field facing big league pitching. It’s definitely an honor. The heart was definitely pounding. I was able to calm down walking to the [batter’s] box. Hit me again looking at the pitcher, but I reset. I was excited [at first base], thinking about the hard work I put in, my parents put in, my fiance put in. Makes everything worth it.”

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