Home-field advantage in the Wild Card Series: check. Cody Bellinger coming alive: check. Momentum turnaround heading into the postseason: big check.
The Dodgers had it going at Coors Field on Friday night, routing the Rockies, 15-6. Mookie Betts took over the National League home run lead with his 16th, and slumping left-handed hitters like Bellinger erupted in a game that clinched a top-four seeding and cut the magic number for clinching the NL West for an eighth consecutive season to four.
“It’s time to go, and our guys understand that,” said manager Dave Roberts. “I think you can see the focus and intensity has heightened the last few days.”
His new star player agrees.
“We need to continue to put the pressure on teams and play like we’re going to play in the playoffs,” said Betts, one of three players who drove in three runs. “If we ride this wave on through the playoffs, we should be just fine. You can’t just turn it on in the playoffs. We’re doing a good job and we’ve got to continue to do it.”
The current win streak is four, and it’s telling. Go back five games and the Dodgers had a dull loss to the upstart Padres, Trent Grisham homered and celebrated while circling the bases around ace Clayton Kershaw and Los Angeles sort of rolled over. The team awoke the next game and hasn’t lost since.
“Yeah, it was kind of a punch in the mouth,” Betts said of the Monday night loss in San Diego. “We responded well, and we have to just continue to play our game.”
The Dodgers were passing the baton in this one, setting season highs with 15 runs and 17 hits while running their record to 4-0 in bullpen games, this one started by Alex Wood. In addition to Betts, Bellinger and Gavin Lux slugged two-run homers; Lux’s 453-foot bomb was the longest of the year for the club. Bellinger’s was his first extra-base hit of the month, and Lux’s ended an 0-for-14 drought.
“The whole team kind of went crazy,” Bellinger said. “Can’t take the foot off the gas.”
Every player in the Dodgers’ starting lineup had at least one base hit, with eight of them scoring a run and eight recording an RBI. Roberts wouldn’t discount the production just because it came in Coors Field.
“Certainly, there’s a psychological component of having success, but I think the process of controlling the strike zone, which we did very well -- that plays in any ballpark,” he said. “I love the approach the last couple of nights.”
Bellinger was one of the batters to drive in three runs, a commonplace occurrence a year ago when he won the National League MVP Award, but only the second time he’s done so this year. He entered the game batting .218 as part of a group of struggling left-handed hitters, including Lux (.152), Max Muncy (.194), Edwin Ríos (.222) and Joc Pederson (.174).
Bellinger has backed off the plate an inch or two and has softened his stance at the knees in recent days. He’s also playing in Coors Field. Whatever the reason, the Dodgers will take it and hope he can keep it going for another month. His career postseason slashline is a meager .178/.234/.326.
“All those guys had good nights at the plate, and it was really good to see Cody use the big part of the field,” said Roberts. “I don’t think we gave away any at-bats tonight, and when we can do that collectively, I just don’t think there’s anybody better.”