HOUSTON -- Cody Bellinger has a long and gorgeous swing. It is big and flowing, effortless and yet somehow violent, too. That swing is like a little miracle. You can imagine Bellinger pulling a home run into the right-field seats every time he steps to the plate.So, yes, you could
HOUSTON -- Cody Bellinger has a long and gorgeous swing. It is big and flowing, effortless and yet somehow violent, too. That swing is like a little miracle. You can imagine Bellinger pulling a home run into the right-field seats every time he steps to the plate.
So, yes, you could imagine that very thing in the sixth inning on Friday, when the Dodgers were still in this World Series Game 3 against the Astros. It's easy to look back on Houston's 5-3 victory and see the outline of a blowout. Truth is, it probably should have been a blowout. The Astros dominated more or less from the opening pitch. They sent Dodgers starter Yu Darvish to an early shower. Houston cracked 12 hits, walked four times and smashed the ball all over the park. The Astros made great defensive plays, turned two when they needed the double play and got the biggest outs.
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But as Bellinger approached the plate in the sixth, Houston's lead was four runs, and Los Angeles had runners on second and third. Bellinger had a chance to silence the raucous crowd and turn this would-be blowout into something entirely different. He had a chance to change the weather of the 2017 World Series with one long and gorgeous swing.
You couldn't blame a 22-year-old kid playing in his first World Series if some of those thoughts crossed his mind.
Though the worst thing for a 22-year-old kid playing in his first World Series is to have those thoughts cross his mind.
"We've got to get him to slow down," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts would say.
Slow down. It was a Dodgers mantra all year long. This team never seemed rushed, never seemed overly concerned, never overthought things -- even when it went on a losing streak late in the season. Los Angeles played relentlessly chill baseball. It would all work out in the end. Draw walks. Play smart. Wear pitchers down. Throw strikes. Make the sure play.
The Dodgers won an MLB-best 104 games and were good night after night after night -- against lefties or righties, at home or away, in close games and in blowouts -- because they always seemed to have it under control. This was also true in the postseason, when they won seven of eight games and then took Game 1 of the World Series. It was all under control.
But on Friday, the Dodgers did not have it under control. They were sloppy. They made errors. They ran into outs. They swung at bad pitches. They looked overmatched at the plate. It was like anti-Dodger baseball. Postseason stars Justin Turner and Chris Taylor -- so fantastic coming into this series -- looked all out of sorts. It had seemed so easy for them in the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series.
Turner and Taylor are now a combined 3-for-22 in the World Series.
"If we play the normal baseball that we normally play," Bellinger would say, "we probably win that game."
And then there was the Bellinger moment. Understand, it was Bellinger's arrival on April 25 that transformed the Dodgers from a very good team into an almost invincible one. He showed up with that big, beautiful swing, the Roy Hobbs swing, the Duke Snider swing, and he hit 32 home runs in his first 100 games in the big leagues, and Los Angeles won an astonishing 77 of the 100. It seemed like every night Bellinger was doing something else to help the team win, and he set an NL rookie record with 39 home runs.
When Bellinger came up in the sixth inning, the Astros had meeting on the mound. Their starter, Lance McCullers, was clearly at the end of his day. He'd pitched himself out of trouble a couple of times, but now, with two runners on, you fully expected manager A.J. Hinch to go to the 'pen and get a lefty. Instead, Hinch decided to leave McCullers in for one more batter.
This was as good a chance as you could expect -- Bellinger would get his swings against a depleted right-handed starter who might have been left in to face one batter too many. True, Bellinger was hitless in the World Series, but as he would say, "It just takes one swing to get out of it."
Bellinger knew exactly what pitch was coming, too. When McCullers faces the big moment, he almost always throws his best pitch, the curveball. He finished Game 7 of the American League Championship Series with 24 consecutive curveballs.
McCullers threw three curveballs to Bellinger. Bellinger expected all three.
The first curveball broke down and in -- it ended up a foot out of the strike zone. Bellinger swung that beautiful swing over it for strike one.
"He pitched to my aggressiveness," Bellinger said.
The second curveball caught too much of the plate -- it was low, a bit lower than Bellinger's sweet spot, but in the middle of the plate. Bellinger fouled it off.
"There were a few hanging ones," Bellinger said. "And when you're not feeling too hot, you miss them."
The third curveball was in the dirt. Bellinger swung for strike three.
And with that, Hinch pulled McCullers, put in Brad Peacock, and the Dodgers did not manage another hit for the rest of the night.
"I had a few bad at-bats today," Bellinger said. "I'd be the first one to admit it."
In all, Bellinger had four strikeouts, and he's now 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts in the World Series. He plays it down, saying he's had four-strikeout games before. He says he's had slumps before. Such things happen, even to phenoms with a long and gorgeous swing.
"I've felt worse at the plate," Bellinger said. "And I'm not too worried about it. Hopefully, I can get out of it soon."
Joe Posnanski is a columnist for MLB.com.