Cody Bellinger’s right shoulder felt fine when he let loose some swings in batting practice, but he really didn’t feel like tempting fate again. No more elbow bumps like the big thump with Kiké Hernández that popped the shoulder out during Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.
"I said it today before the game,” Bellinger said. “I said, 'If I ever hit one, I'm not touching anybody's arm. I'm going straight foot.’”
Of course, he’d need to hit another big homer first to debut “going straight foot.”
There was nothing restrained about the towering arc of the fly ball that took off from Bellinger’s bat in the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series at Globe Life Field on Tuesday night. With a sharp crack, the ball carried all the way over the right-field wall and put the Dodgers ahead, 2-0. He added a highlight-reel leaping catch at the wall in the ninth inning to help cement Los Angeles’ 8-3 win.
The restraint did, indeed, come after Bellinger’s trot around the bases. He ran up to Max Muncy with a big grin, paused, and tapped feet with his teammate before going down the high-five line -- actually, make that a foot-tap line.
The emphatic -- and humorous -- message delivered by the 378-foot blast and celebration: Bellinger’s shoulder is fine. And he’s taking care to keep it that way.
“At first, it’s just getting past the point where it’s not going to pop out unless I do something stupid like I did,” Bellinger said. “So I’ve just got to trust it in the game, get over the brain saying it’s not healthy and understand that it is. I’ve done it before, so -- I felt good in the cage when I first swung, I felt good in BP -- so I knew I was ready to go.”
Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow had matched Clayton Kershaw’s dominant start with a steady diet of overpowering fastballs through three shutout innings, but he issued a leadoff walk to Muncy in the fourth before he tried to blow a first-pitch heater by Bellinger at 98.2 mph. This time, the Dodgers’ center fielder was ready. The ball launched off the bat at 107.8 mph before it fell to earth amid a raucous celebration in the Los Angeles bullpen.
It was the fastest pitch Bellinger has hit for a homer in his career -- in the regular season or playoffs.
Bellinger entered the game 5-for-44 (.114) in 12 career World Series games. The blast marked his second World Series big fly and was his fourth homer of this postseason, tying him for the third-most homers by a Dodgers player in a single postseason, behind teammate and NLCS MVP Corey Seager in 2020 (six) and Davey Lopes in 1978 (five).
Including his NLCS-clinching homer in Game 7 on Sunday, the 25-year-old has gone deep in successive games. Bill Madlock is the only player in Dodgers history to homer in three straight playoff games, having done so in the 1985 NLCS.
All that caution around the shoulder, by the way, lasted maybe four more innings.
When Joey Wendle drove a ball to the left-center-field wall in the seventh, Bellinger sprinted after it, looked up and saw the padding closing fast on his right shoulder as the ball caromed off the heel of his glove for a double. Then, boom. He went shoulder-first into the wall.
And he was all right.
"It was one of those where it's the first time I challenged it, and I closed to the wall, I dropped it, and then my shoulder hit the wall,” Bellinger said. “And then, I was, 'OK. I'm fine.' Mookie and [Chris Taylor] are like, 'All right, listen. Now you know. You're going to come up with a catch later in the game.’”
As Joe Kelly put the finishing touches on the Dodgers’ win in the ninth, Austin Meadows drilled a deep fly ball to left-center. Bellinger again gave chase, and emboldened by his earlier victory over the padding, he had the confidence to leap with his back to the wall, snare what might have been a homer and absorb the contact with his shoulders.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled a projected 410 feet and would have been a homer in 20 parks. Still not far enough to evade Bellinger, who again took the opportunity to emphasize that he has two whole shoulders.
“Luckily, I had an opportunity to show I'm all right,” Bellinger said. “I am all right, and I feel good."
Still not feeling good enough to take his chances with another elbow bump, though. The foot tap is funnier, anyway.
"I think I'll continue to do that,” Bellinger said. “Maybe my whole career -- who knows?”