Cody Bellinger has spent more time on the injured list than on the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup card this season. Even when healthy, the 2019 NL MVP has been batting .217 with little to celebrate.
One major swing against the Chicago Cubs just might put Bellinger back on track.
Bellinger homered with two outs in the ninth inning, and the Dodgers beat the Cubs 3-2 Saturday night for their first walk-off victory of the season.
Two innings after Bellinger came on as a defensive substitution in a double switch, he crushed a 422-foot solo shot to center off Keegan Thompson (3-2). Just about everybody but Bellinger knew it was gone.
“I knew I hit it well,” Bellinger said of his third career game-ending homer. “But I haven’t hit too many this year, so I wasn’t sure.”
The rest of the Dodgers were more excited about Bellinger's possible breakthrough, because they know what he went through to get there over the past three months.
Bellinger missed nearly eight weeks with a hairline break in his leg after getting hurt in the season-opening series in Oakland. After another stint on the injured list this month with a hamstring problem, he had just one hit in three games back, prompting manager Dave Roberts to keep him out of the starting lineup.
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“It’s big. It’s real,” Roberts said. “We as coaches or teammates can say, ‘Hey man, you’re going to be there when you’re ready to go.’ But as a player, I think you want to feel you’re pulling your weight. ... For him to get that hit, I think it was big for all of us.”
Bellinger made a difficult catch on Joc Pederson's line drive to center in the top of the ninth, and then he hit his second homer of the year, setting off a celebration for the defending World Series champions.
“It’s not that I’m, like, searching for a big moment,” Bellinger said. “Just playing the game, and if you’re in those moments, then you’re in that moment and you just want to perform and succeed and help the team win.”
After Max Muncy and Justin Turner each drove in a run in the first inning, the Dodgers made 26 outs before Bellinger's blast. One night after snapping a four-game skid, Los Angeles won for the second time since four Cubs pitchers combined for a no-hitter at Dodger Stadium on Thursday night.
David Price (3-0) got two outs in the ninth while pitching for the third consecutive day.
Julio Urías racked up a career-high 12 strikeouts while pitching five-hit ball into the sixth inning for the Dodgers.
Anthony Rizzo homered for the Cubs. Alec Mills yielded eight hits in four rocky innings, but just two runs — none after his first three batters.
“I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Mills said. “Kind of was in and out of knowing where it was going, to be honest. ... Given the situation, to go four innings and only give up two with the kind of stuff I had was obviously a little bit of a success.”
Mookie Betts led off the game with a double, and Muncy doubled him home before scoring on Turner's single.
Urías got off to an outstanding start to the season, but the Dodgers' World Series-clinching hero came into Saturday hoping to end a decline in effectiveness over the past month.
“He looked fantastic,” Roberts said of Urías. “He was fantastic.”
The left-hander yielded just one hit in the first three innings, but Rizzo homered to right on Urías' first pitch of the fourth, blistering a high fastball on the ninth anniversary of the three-time All-Star's Cubs debut.
Ian Happ tied it with an RBI double in the fifth after batting for Mills.
TAYLOR (NOT SO) SWIFT
Chris Taylor was thrown at third base twice by Cubs catcher Willson Contreras in the first four innings. The LA veteran was nabbed trying to steal in the second, and he was picked off in the fourth. The second time cost the Dodgers a run, since Urías singled on the next pitch.
Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward thought he hit a tiebreaking homer in the seventh when his drive down the left-field line was initially ruled fair by third base umpire D.J. Reyburn. The umpires then reversed themselves after a group consultation, and video review didn't reverse the reversal.
"I had doubts on the original call, so I wanted to get together with the crew,” Reyburn said. “Based on the information they gave me, I wanted to change it.”
Heyward still singled to center, reaching base in his seventh consecutive plate appearance.
“They got together and conversed, and I guess they overturned it, and at that point all we can do is trust in the video,” Cubs manager David Ross said.
Cubs: INF Nico Hoerner (left hamstring strain) will begin a rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Iowa.
Dodgers: Yoshi Tsutsugo (right calf strain) will get at least another week at Triple-A Oklahoma City before he is re-evaluated.
Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw (8-7, 3.43 ERA) hopes to atone for the shortest start of his career May 4 at Wrigley Field when he pitches the series finale against Albert Alzolay (4-6, 4.19 ERA).