SAN FRANCISCO -- Three hours before Game 2 of the National League Division Series, Cody Bellinger sat down at the podium inside the interview room at Oracle Park to answer questions about a season that, up to that point, had been a disappointment.
Bellinger walked through the multiple injuries he suffered this year, as well as his recovery from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder during the offseason. But in most of his answers, Bellinger made sure to include that he’s still feeling good and confident about his ability at the plate despite his forgettable season.
On the surface, that might not make much sense, given that Bellinger finished the regular season with a .165 batting average. But in his mind, he believed he was just one hit away from getting back on track.
On Saturday night, Bellinger backed up those words, smacking a two-run double to left-center field off right-hander Dominic Leone to anchor a four-run sixth inning. Bellinger’s hit helped the Dodgers create some separation, and the rest of the offense proceeded to pile on in a dominant 9-2 win over the Giants. The best-of-five series is now tied at one game apiece.
In Division Series with the current 2-2-1 format, teams that have split the first two games in their opponent’s home ballpark, before returning home for Game 3, have gone on to win the series 23 of 36 times (64%). This excludes 2020 (DS played at neutral sites).
“[Giants right-hander Logan] Webb got us yesterday, after the game, tipped our cap,” said Bellinger. “We’ve been down 1-0 before, and we knew we had to come out today and really execute our plan even more so than yesterday. ... We executed our plans today.”
As they looked for a spark heading into Game 2, the Dodgers elected to start NL Wild Card Game hero Chris Taylor in center field. That move sent Bellinger to first base and Matt Beaty to the bench. Starting Taylor paid off right away, as the All-Star recorded the team’s first hit, a one-out double in the second inning. Taylor also had a big walk in the sixth to spark another rally. But the Dodgers’ first big hit came from starting pitcher Julio Urías.
Urías, who recorded nine RBIs during the regular season, has become one of the best hitting pitchers in the Majors. He proved that again on Saturday, depositing a Kevin Gausman splitter into right field for an RBI single to give the Dodgers an early 1-0 lead. Urías also delivered on the mound, allowing one run over five innings.
“I think the adrenaline kicks in,” Urías said. “Obviously after they [intentionally] walked [No. 8 hitter AJ] Pollock, you kind of want to do a little bit better, you want to try a little bit harder. And I think that opportunity kind of pushed me a little bit more to try to get a hit in that spot, and it worked out.”
Once Urías broke the seal, the Dodgers were able to put their Game 1 struggles behind them. The bottom of the order stepped up in a big way, as the seven through nine hitters were responsible for driving in five runs. That part of the lineup was held hitless on Friday.
Bellinger, batting seventh and 2-for-53 against the Giants this year, and Pollock each recorded a two-run double in the four-run sixth inning. With Max Muncy (injured left elbow) out of the lineup, that’s the type of production the Dodgers are going to need from the bottom of the order.
“I think Cody Bellinger has not, he hasn’t been at his best. I think I’m sure he’s acknowledged that,” said Giants manager Gabe Kapler. “At the same time, he’s incredibly talented and gifted as an athlete, and you know that he’s always dangerous.”
The top of the Dodgers’ order did plenty of damage, too. Eight of the nine starters recorded at least one hit, with Justin Turner being the exception. Los Angeles had seven players with at least one hit and one RBI, matching a franchise postseason record. They last had seven players with a hit and RBI in Game 3 of the 1947 World Series, when the Brooklyn Dodgers defeated the Yankees, 9-8.
Los Angeles was also much better with runners in scoring position, finishing 6-for-15 in Game 2. The Dodgers were 0-for-5 in similar situations in Game 1.
“I think we are always pretty confident,” said Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, who cut short a Giants rally in the sixth with an amazing throw. “We have a good group of guys here, play the game hard, play the game the right way.”
The Dodgers feel like Saturday’s performance is a better representation of the team they are. Just 24 hours after the disappointing Game 1 loss, they now head home -- where they posted a Majors-best 58-23 record during the regular season -- in the driver’s seat of a series that is now essentially a best-of-three.
They’ll also have three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer on the mound in Game 3. If Scherzer gets similar run support, the Dodgers will be tough to beat.
“That’s a good feeling,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “It’s interesting how the narrative changes from game to game. And right now, it’s a three-game series, we have home-field advantage and we’ve got Max on the mound. So I like where we’re at.”