LOS ANGELES -- Because he was rehabbing from an offseason shoulder injury during Spring Training and missed two months with a hairline fracture in his left leg, Dodgers star outfielder Cody Bellinger said he feels like he hasn’t been part of this year’s team.
Bellinger made his presence felt in the Dodgers’ 14-3 win over the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, driving in six runs in the first inning, capped off by his sixth career grand slam in his second at-bat. Bellinger’s six RBIs in the first were the most driven in by a Dodgers player in a single inning in franchise history.
The grand slam also served as the exclamation point on an 11-run first-inning by the Dodgers, with 10 of those runs charged to Cardinals starter Carlos Martínez.
It was the first time the Dodgers scored 11 runs in an inning during a regular-season game since moving to Los Angeles. They also scored 11 runs in the first inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves last year. The Dodgers also became the first team to score 11 runs in an inning since the Braves did it last season on Sept. 9 against the Marlins.
“We have a really good team, man,” Bellinger said. “We’ve been banged up for a little bit and it’s not exactly what the team had planned, but we have depth and it showed in the first part of the season. And we have a lot of guys that can play any position or any part of the lineup, and we showed that today.”
Mookie Betts led off the inning with a bloop double. His teammates followed, as the first eight Dodgers hitters reached safely against Martínez, pushing across six runs before the first out was recorded. Justin Turner, Zach McKinstry, Betts and Bellinger all delivered run-scoring hits.
That first inning was the first time since May 6, 2005, against the Reds that the Dodgers scored at least six runs before recording their first out of the game. It was also the third-most runs scored in an inning during the regular season in franchise history.
While the Dodgers did most of their damage in the first, they certainly didn’t stop there. Every L.A. starter reached base safely, including right-hander Walker Buehler, who drove in two in the fourth inning on his first career double. Betts added another run with his third hit of the night, an RBI single to right field in the fourth. With his first three-hit game of 2021, the former MVP appears to be breaking out of his early season struggles.
“Saw some signs from Mookie after that day of work [on Saturday], that pinch-hit at-bat where he took a walk, I just felt like it clicked right there, and he’s been really good since,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “To get him going, obviously our guys feed off him.”
After going 0-for-10 with seven strikeouts in his first 13 plate appearances since returning from the IL on Saturday, Bellinger recorded his first hit of the season in Tuesday’s loss. However, it was clear that the outfielder was still working through his mechanics and timing after being out for nearly two months.
Bellinger seemed to put it all together on Wednesday. His two-run single in his first at-bat had an exit velocity of 106 mph, while the grand slam off Jake Woodford had an exit velocity of 103.8 mph. Bellinger went 2-for-4 and the six RBIs tied a single-game career-high.
“Even though I was striking out a lot, I was still feeling relatively good at the plate. I was just missing some pitches,” Bellinger said. “But that comes with reps and routine, so I knew I was close. And it was nice to get the first one [hit] out of the way yesterday, for sure, and just kind of roll from there.”
Despite a flurry of injuries, the Dodgers have one of the best offenses in the Majors through two months. As they get healthier, they feel there’s even more potential to tap into. With Bellinger and Betts leading the way on Wednesday, the Dodgers showed there’s plenty of substance behind the team’s optimism.
“All night long, the at-bat quality was so good,” Roberts said. “Just across the board, really fun.”