MILWAUKEE -- Doused in champagne, Cody Bellinger rejoiced. Arms raised, mouth wide, his October demons drowned away.
There was perhaps no player who entered the National League Championship Series with more to prove than Bellinger, a career .160 postseason hitter at the start of the seven-game set that Los Angeles clinched with its 5-1 Game 7 win Saturday night at Miller Park. He now has the hardware to turn those demons into ghosts, after claiming NLCS MVP honors for a series he cemented for the Dodgers with both his bat and his glove.
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
"It feels unbelievable," Bellinger said. "This is honestly the coldest shower I've ever had."
Bellinger earned it. He became the seventh player in franchise history to claim the award, joining Dusty Baker (1977), Steve Garvey ('78), Burt Hooton ('81), Orel Hershiser ('88), Justin Turner and Chris Taylor (2017 co-MVPs).
But truth be told, there have been few series MVPs quite like Bellinger, who didn't dominate the series in a traditional sense. His play just had the most impact. Bellinger's 13th-inning single sent the Dodgers to a walk-off win in Game 4, and his two-run blast off Jhoulys Chacin gave Los Angeles a Game 7 lead it would never relinquish. He also made a sensational catch in the 10th inning of Game 4. All told, Bellinger hit .200 (5-for-25) with four RBIs and three runs scored in the series.
Bellinger had gone hitless across 11 at-bats in the NL Division Series against the Braves. He also struggled mightily last October as a rookie, hitting .143 with 17 strikeouts in 28 at-bats in the World Series against the Astros.
"All postseason, I felt fairly good, I wasn't seeing any results," Bellinger said. "And luckily for me, I've got a lot of veterans on this team. They said, 'Stick with the process and the results will come.' And that's exactly what I did, and it showed."
That was never truer than in the second inning Saturday, when Bellinger strode to the plate against Chacin with Manny Machado on first and the Dodgers down a run. Bellinger worked a 2-2 count, then took a cut at a sinker that Chacin said was meant "to get Bellinger to chase up."
"The ball sunk down," Chacin said. "And he put it out."
The 425-foot, two-run homer, as tracked by Statcast™, put the Dodgers up for good. It also marked the first homer for Bellinger in his past 48 postseason plate appearances, dating back to Game 5 of the 2017 World Series. He has homered once every 18 regular-season plate appearances over his two Major League seasons. Bellinger hit 39 to claim the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2017, and he followed that up with 25 this season. He hit .260/.343/.470 with 76 RBIs in his sophomore campaign.
Now at age 23, Bellinger gets his second straight crack at a ring. As do the Dodgers.
"We have a talented team. It's going to be hard to beat us," Bellinger said. "We told everyone not to worry. We understood the talent that we had. Now we're here."
Bellinger could have just as well been speaking about himself.