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Bellinger's hot start joins A-Rod, Mathews

Slugger has 6 HRs through 8 games; Dodgers' total up to 21
@kengurnick
April 5, 2019

DENVER -- Go through the list of all-time Dodgers sluggers, from Duke Snider and Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges to Mike Piazza and Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green, and nobody has started a season like Cody Bellinger has started 2019. With a three-run homer in Friday's 10-6 win over the

DENVER -- Go through the list of all-time Dodgers sluggers, from Duke Snider and Roy Campanella and Gil Hodges to Mike Piazza and Adrian Beltre and Shawn Green, and nobody has started a season like Cody Bellinger has started 2019.

With a three-run homer in Friday's 10-6 win over the Rockies, Bellinger joined Eddie Mathews (1953) and Alex Rodriguez (2007) as the only players in MLB history with six homers and 16 RBIs through the first eight games of the season, according to STATS. Both are Dodgers franchise records.

"That's cool, to be with A-Rod," said Bellinger, who slugged 39 home runs when he was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2017, despite beginning that season at Triple-A.

Max Muncy and Russell Martin also homered as the Dodgers extended another franchise record, most games to start a season with a home run, to eight. And they have 21 total, the second most through eight games in baseball history.

The Dodgers have hit more homers than every team except Seattle, which opened the season early in Japan. The Rockies, who lost out on the NL West crown to the Dodgers last year in Game 163, have five.

Bellinger leads MLB in home runs. Platooned last year when he struggled against left-handed pitching, he isn't struggling this year. The home run came against lefty Tyler Anderson, and Bellinger is 6-for-16 against southpaws this year with two homers. Against left-handers last year, he had six homers and hit .226.

"It's confidence and being mechanically sound to a point where I'm able to go against different pitchers and know what I want to do," said Bellinger, who is batting .417 with a 1.364 OPS.

Just as telling is that Bellinger has only five strikeouts in 36 at-bats (14 percent). Last year he struck out in 27 percent of his at-bats.

"I don't think anybody expects to be like this," he said of the records. "I was feeling good in Spring Training and just wanted to do what I could to carry it over to the regular season."

While Bellinger is breaking records, the team home-run rampage is evidence of what manager Dave Roberts promised, that the club would display consistency throughout the lineup.

"It's a tough lineup to navigate," Roberts said. "It's good to see us after an off-day to continue to swing the bats well."

"Everyone was feeling good in spring, everyone put in a lot of work in the offseason with our hitting coaches and feeling good and all the hard work is paying off for a lot of people," Bellinger said.

Muncy came a double shy of a cycle, walking in his ninth-inning at-bat to finish 3-for-4 with three RBIs. He also lined into a double- play.

"Starting with the Freeway Series we started to make serious strides," said Muncy, who had a rough Spring Training, batting only .208 without a home run. "The past couple games I've really felt good at the plate. It's one of those things where you have to stay focused on the process, not the result. In a sport that's solely based on results, sometimes it's hard to do that."

Despite the final score, there was a price paid in hitter-friendly Colorado, as winner Kenta Maeda (2-0) lasted only five innings, needing 91 pitches and walking four. He was fortunate that the Dodgers turned two huge double plays behind him and the Rockies went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position, stranding six while he was on the mound.

Maeda's early exit made the bullpen work early, which is never desirable in the opener of a Coors Field series, putting the pressure on Saturday night starter Walker Buehler to give the Dodgers much more than the three-plus innings in his debut.

The Dodgers used six relievers over the final four innings, with Joe Kelly leaving injured (X-rays on his right wrist were negative), Brock Stewart allowing three runs and a homer to Trevor Story, and Yimi Garcia allowing homers to David Dahl and Story.

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