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Bellinger's 'athleticism' on display in frantic 9th

Offense chases Bumgarner early as Dodgers hang on vs. Giants
@kengurnick
June 21, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The only real question after the Dodgers' wild 9-8 win over the Giants Thursday night is, what can't Cody Bellinger do? He sat for seven innings to supposedly get a breather, watching the rematch of Max Muncy vs. Madison Bumgarner with a Muncy RBI single, no homers

LOS ANGELES -- The only real question after the Dodgers' wild 9-8 win over the Giants Thursday night is, what can't Cody Bellinger do?

He sat for seven innings to supposedly get a breather, watching the rematch of Max Muncy vs. Madison Bumgarner with a Muncy RBI single, no homers or insults included. Bellinger watched home runs by Kyle Garlick, Austin Barnes and Joc Pederson help build a 7-1 lead. He watched Pederson debut at first base and he watched a parade of Dodgers relievers hang on for the bullpen's second consecutive victory.

Box score

But Bellinger, the current leading vote-getter for the National League All-Star team as an outfielder, also made the defensive play that saved the game. Oh, and he made it as a first baseman, playing there for the first time in almost two months, entering the game after Muncy fouled a pitch off his ankle and had to leave. (X-rays were negative, but Muncy left the clubhouse limping noticeably.)

In the top of the ninth inning the Dodgers' bullpen was in complete meltdown mode, having allowed six consecutive batters to reach base, a six-run lead slashed to one. The Giants asked Tyler Austin to bunt with runners on first and second, and Bellinger charged to the plate as if he'd been doing it all season, scooping up the ball and gunning down Stephen Vogt at third base by a whisker. The call stood after review, and the Giants were livid it wasn't overturned.

Kenley Jansen then watched center fielder Alex Verdugo run down Buster Posey's liner to center and Garlick run down Brandon Belt's drive to right for a truly ugly 22nd save. Bellinger entered the game playing right field with Pederson at first base, but when Jansen took over for debuting reliever Josh Sborz, manager Dave Roberts also moved Bellinger to first and Pederson to the outfield.

"Cody's play saved the game," said catcher Austin Barnes, who added that he would have accepted the out at first base on Austin if Bellinger hadn't cut in front of him. "Cody's crazy. He won the game."

"I just started crashing once he squared around and knew that Vogt was running," said Bellinger. "It was more of whoever was picking up would throw to the base you think. I didn't hear anything, just focused on third. Turned out to be a big play. It probably would have been the weirdest loss I've ever been a part of. Good thing it wasn't, and a win is a win."

Bellinger has regained his superstar status this year mostly for a record-breaking offensive season, but he's likely to win a Gold Glove in the outfield, and probably could in the infield, as well. If his throw is late, it's bases loaded and no outs. If he gets the sure out at first, at least the tying run, if not the go-ahead run, likely scores on the drives by Posey and Belt.

"It just speaks to his athleticism," said Roberts. "His baseball instincts. He trusts his arm. He hasn't played out there in quite some time. For him not to panic and make a play, a game-changing play right there."

It was only one of countless unexpected developments. Among them was Bumgarner, shelled in 3 2/3 innings of what might be his last game as a Giant against the Dodgers if San Francisco deals him at the Trade Deadline. He allowed more runs (six) on more hits (10) than any of his 36 starts against the Dodgers. The game was hyped as a rematch of the epic "Get the ball out of the ocean" insult Muncy delivered after Bumgarner took offense to Muncy admiring his home run into McCovey Cove earlier this month.

But the Dodgers chased Bumgarner with a five-run fourth inning. Meanwhile, Julio Urias made his first start since April 18 and opened with three scoreless innings. JT Chargois -- called up with Sborz to reinforce a bullpen that pitched eight innings after Rich Hill was injured Wednesday night – allowed one run in two innings and Ross Stripling was charged with three unearned runs via a Chris Taylor error, although it included a two-run homer by Mike Yastrzemski.

Sborz retired the side in the eighth, but he couldn't retire any of three batters in the ninth and on came Jansen after a relatively quick warm-up.

"He just didn't seem sharp," Roberts said of Jansen.

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