Bellinger in legendary company with 30th homer

July 5th, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- On Wednesday night, he passed Duke Snider and Gil Hodges for most Dodgers home runs before the All-Star break. On Thursday night, he closed the gap on Reggie Jackson (37), Mark McGwire (33) and Willie Mays (31) for most pre-break homers under the age of 24.

This is the kind of company is keeping in what has the makings of the greatest offensive season in Dodgers history, the All-Star outfielder tacking on home run No. 30 in a 5-1 win over the Padres on the Fourth of July at Dodger Stadium. Wonder what he’ll do on Friday.

“I apologize for the lack of drama at the end,” joked manager Dave Roberts, whose team had won its previous five home games in walk-offs.

No need for theatrics this time, as Bellinger and Max Muncy homered and (10-3) pitched six scoreless innings in a final tune-up for his All-Star Game start.

Bellinger, meanwhile, added to his MVP resume, becoming one of 38 players in MLB history with 30 home runs by the All-Star break, one of only 19 in the National League, and the only Dodger.

Bellinger is on pace to hit 54 home runs this season, which would break Shawn Green’s club mark of 49. He has 71 RBIs, on pace for 130, which would be the most since Tommy Davis’ team-record 153 in 1962. The last Dodger to finish a season with a batting average higher than Bellinger’s current mark of .344 was Mike Piazza at .362 in 1997. His .711 slugging percentage and 1.149 OPS would break Babe Herman’s club marks of .678 and 1.132 set in 1930.

And this is no small sample size, with the 162-game season more than halfway over and the All-Star break three games away.

If the magnitude of what he’s doing at the plate is having any impact on Bellinger, it didn't show when he talked about it after another night of heroism in support of Ryu.

“Just trying to keep going,” said Bellinger. “Just try to stay in the present the best I can. Not get too big-headed or too down on myself. I don’t try to listen to all those numbers.”

Then, cover your ears. Bellinger, who homered twice on Wednesday night, crushed a hanging breaking ball as a greeting to lefty reliever Logan Allen. Allen had replaced starter Dinelson Lamet, who was making his first MLB start since Tommy John surgery 15 months earlier.

Eleven of Bellinger’s 30 homers have come off left-handers, the most dramatic improvement in his game from last year, when only six of his 25 home runs were off lefties. Twenty have been hit at Dodger Stadium.

“Right now, it doesn’t matter who’s throwing to him,” Roberts said of Bellinger. “He’s in such a good place. He just puts a quality at-bat every time up there. You get the tough left-on-left, hanging breaking ball and he hits it into the seats. Playing Gold Glove defense. He’s obviously a huge cog in our lineup.”

It doesn’t hurt that Bellinger is protected in the lineup by Muncy, who also homered in this game, a rare Loge Level blast off Lamet. Muncy has 21 and he and Bellinger have homered in the same game 18 times since the start of last year, the most in MLB by any set of teammates.

“Nobody is under the radar as much as Max is,” said Roberts. “Hitting behind Cody, having those guys still respect Max to pitch to Cody, and when they don’t, to have Max behind him.”