Bellinger Busts Out To Even World Series
Wooten, the hitting coach at Triple-A Oklahoma City who is on the Dodgers coaching staff for the postseason, has been a hitting whisperer of sorts for Bellinger. Wooten began working with Bellinger in spring training and the two immediately clicked, so much so that Bellinger directly credited Wooten during the summer for unlocking the power that made him an All-Star in his rookie campaign.
So when Wooten found Bellinger in the hours after Game 3, his words carried weight.
"I was in here asking him what he was feeling and just kind of told him to slow down," Wooten said. "Obviously the moment is kind of big and I just asked if he felt like he was underneath the ball and he said 'yeah' and I just gave him a little suggestion….Just definitely slow down."
Clearly, the message worked.
Bellinger hit two doubles, the first of which led to him scoring the Dodgers’ first run and the second of which drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth, to lift the Dodgers to a 6-2 victory in Game 4 on Saturday night and even the World Series at two games apiece.
"Sometimes in the postseason you want to try to do too much and that’s what I was doing," Bellinger said. "Today I tried to make an effort of not doing too much, and when you do that you get two hits sometimes. It’s a crazy game."
Bellinger showed immediate progress when he stung a fly ball to left field in his first plate appearance. He appeared to regress when he struck out in his second at-bat, falling to 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts in the World Series.
After George Springer broke up Alex Wood’s no-hit bid and a scoreless tie with a solo home run in the sixth, Bellinger stepped up in the top of the seventh and drilled a Charlie Morton offering into left-center for a one-out double.
The smash pierced the air of invincibility around Morton, who had faced just two batters over the minimum to that point, and chased him from the game.
"Sigh of relief," Bellinger said. "I hit it and I was just hoping that it faded into the wall so (left fielder Marwin Gonzalez) didn’t catch it. Luckily it did. I just had a super sigh of relief, that’s for sure."
That was just the appetizer of Bellinger’s heroics. With the score still 1-1 in the top of the ninth, scuffling Astros closer Ken Giles surrendered a leadoff single to Corey Seager and walked Justin Turner to open the frame. Bellinger stepped to the plate, held up on a Giles breaking ball in the dirt—the type of pitch that Bellinger had chased all series—and smoked the ensuing fastball for another double into left field, scoring Seager with the go-ahead run and giving the Dodgers their first lead of the World Series since Wednesday.
"I saw him in the video room and said ‘Once you got the first hit I knew you were going to get the next one there,'" Wooten said. “And he took a great swing in the ninth inning. That was huge."
The rest of the Dodgers followed their cleanup hitter’s example. After an intentional walk to Yasiel Puig, Austin Barnes narrowly missed a grand slam down the left-field line before settling for a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1. Joc Pederson then stepped up and launched a three-run homer 408 feet into right-center field, making it 6-1 and all but assuring the series would return to Los Angeles.
"(What Bellinger did) was huge. Huge for him and huge for us," center fielder Chris Taylor said. "I think everyone was jacked up. We know he’s been grinding and we knew he was really close. Tonight was a huge step for him and I’m sure he’ll be great for us the rest of the series."
Alex Bregman homered in the bottom of the ninth for Houston to polish the score.
The late offensive outburst reshaped what had previously been a pitcher’s duel.
Morton faced the minimum through five, allowing a single to Taylor to lead off the game and nothing else until the sixth. Wood matched him, holding the Astros hitless through 5.2 innings, the longest no-hit effort in Dodgers’ postseason history.
"Wood is different in general," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Different arm angle, different mechanics, and we hadn't seen him before or a ton. It looked like he was teasing the strike zone a little bit. We were a little aggressive. He pitches very well down in the zone."
But Springer’s home run ended Wood’s night in the sixth, and Bellinger’s first double ended Morton’s in the seventh.
The bullpens held the score at 1-1 until the ninth when Bellinger, inspired by Wooten, settled into his comfort zone and delivered his biggest hit of the series.
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The homer was the latest in a growing list of heroic playoff moments for Bellinger.
"He’s so talented, you just try to get him in the best possible position to succeed and try to calm him down and just tell him he’s right where he needs to be," Wooten said. "It’s just a pitch here, a bloop here, whatever the case may be. He got some good pitches to hit, and he put some good swings on them."