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Bellinger picks fine time to ditch Series funk

After starting 0-for-11, LA rookie comes up big in Game 5 win
MLB.com @castrovince

HOUSTON -- In the Dodgers' clubhouse, they've had a lot of fun with Cody Bellinger this year. He eats a lot of ice cream, he famously didn't know who Jerry Seinfeld is, he likes new shoes and Frappuccinos and is a frequent target of ribbing for how nonchalantly youthful he can appear in a fraternity of men.

But what has never been denied, even when Bellinger has found himself in some deep funks, is the kid's above-average ability to make the necessary adjustments. And that's exactly what happened in the Dodgers' pivotal 6-2 victory in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

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HOUSTON -- In the Dodgers' clubhouse, they've had a lot of fun with Cody Bellinger this year. He eats a lot of ice cream, he famously didn't know who Jerry Seinfeld is, he likes new shoes and Frappuccinos and is a frequent target of ribbing for how nonchalantly youthful he can appear in a fraternity of men.

But what has never been denied, even when Bellinger has found himself in some deep funks, is the kid's above-average ability to make the necessary adjustments. And that's exactly what happened in the Dodgers' pivotal 6-2 victory in Game 4 of the World Series on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.

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Before the win, which evened things up at two wins apiece, Bellinger, mired in an 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts in the Series, took note of the approaches of some elder teammates and decided to try them on for size.

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"I see Andre [Ethier] take BP every day, and every ball is getting shot to left field," he said. "I see Logan Forsythe take BP, and every ball is getting hit in the gap. I was always told these really good hitters hit the ball the other way in BP and I had never done it. I wanted to try it."

So he tried it.

And then, when it mattered most, Bellinger did it. First, it was a one-out double to the gap to the opposite field, left-center-field, in the seventh. That not only chased Charlie Morton, who had been phenomenal for the Astros, from the ballgame but set up the Dodgers' first run of the game, which arrived when Forsythe drove in Bellinger with one of those aforementioned singles to the gap off reliever Will Harris to even things up at 1.

Dodgers' bench excited for Bellinger's RBI double

And then the big blow came in the ninth. With the game still knotted at 1, Bellinger came up with runners at first and second and none out, with Astros closer Ken Giles on the hill. Though Bellinger's Series struggles had been based on a propensity to chase breaking balls out of the strike zone, he passed on a slider in the dirt. Then, when Giles left him a four-seam fastball up in the zone, Bellinger once again smacked the ball to the opposite field for a run-scoring double that gave the Dodgers the go-ahead run.

Video: WS2017 Gm4: Bellinger on clutch Game 4 performance

With that, Bellinger went from the golden sombrero -- he struck out four times in Game 3 -- to just plain golden. It was a moment that validated manager Dave Roberts' decision to stick with Bellinger in the cleanup spot, despite his troubles. Not that Roberts ever seriously considered otherwise.

"He's got that calmness about him," Roberts said. "And when things speed up, he has a way of sort of resetting and not letting it spiral. Even this year in his first year, there were times where he started to struggle. And he was able to slow the game down and not put too much pressure on himself. And you look at the at-bats tonight that he had, huge. He came up big.

"And the one thing with Cody, though, is he's such a defensive star out there, that the defense obviously helps us win baseball games, as well. But it was absolutely good to see him come back tonight with a couple of big doubles."

Video: WS2017 Gm4: Roberts discusses confidene in Bellinger

Bellinger, who is likely headed toward winning National League Rookie of the Year, not only set an NL rookie record with 39 home runs in 2017, but he also had a .352 on-base percentage and .581 slugging percentage.

This kind of stuff doesn't happen by accident, and Bellinger has been able to maintain an elite on-base ability even as opposing pitchers have tried to play on his lofty swing and aggressiveness. The 22-year-old Bellinger's mental maturity, no doubt a product of growing up with father Clay Bellinger in the bigs, has been his strongest skill set, and it served him well when the whole world was wondering what was up with his Fall Classic funk.

"Nobody in here," said teammate Corey Seager, "was worried about him."

Tweet from @redturn2: @Cody_Bellinger going #DoubleDouble Cali style #FTW @Dodgers pic.twitter.com/UnGv1o64yB

And the rest of the lineup fed off him in the ninth. The Astros turned to Joe Musgrove, who got Yasiel Puig to strike out before intentionally walking Forsythe to load the bases. But valuable insurance arrived when Austin Barnes hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Justin Turner. And then Joc Pederson cleared the bases with a three-run blast to right, silencing the stunned Astros faithful and sealing the Dodgers' Series-shifting win.

Video: Extended Cut: Bellinger's go-ahead double in Game 4

But the real offensive key was Bellinger, who earned his ice cream and then some. Like fellow Rookie of the Year-in-waiting Aaron Judge, he's had his first postseason opportunity marred at times by a cavalcade of K's. But like Judge, he's adjusted back in a big way after the humbling 0-for-4 in Game 3.

Video: Bellinger overcomes struggles in Game 4

"I watched and we were identical, striking out a lot, swinging at a lot of off-speed that we don't normally swing at," Bellinger said. "And I think that's the pressure of the postseason sometimes. But it's a beautiful game, I can come out the next day and help the team to win after a bad day like that."

Now, the Dodgers have their four-hole hitter up and running again with an oppo approach and a killer instinct. They've had a lot of fun with Bellinger this year, but Game 4 was the most fun yet.

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Cody Bellinger