The Los Angeles Dodgers ended the San Francisco Giants’ season Thursday night in Game 5 of the NLDS.
L.A. eked out a 2-1 victory and advanced to its fifth NLCS in a span of six years.
For the Dodgers, Cody Bellinger was the hero.
After the 26-year-old had a miserable regular season, he erased a year’s worth of frustrations with one clutch hit in Game 5.
CODY BELLINGER. pic.twitter.com/quEWBFR5hc
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 15, 2021
It’s crazy how baseball works.
Candidly, Bellinger was a liability for the Dodgers throughout the majority of the 2021 regular season.
Some folks thought he wasn’t even deserving of a spot on the NLDS roster.
But with one swing of the bat in Game 5, he changed the complexion of his entire year.
There’s no telling if L.A.’s title hopes would still be alive today without him.
From Zero To Hero
Bellinger posted a -1.5 WAR in the regular season.
That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the year he was having until the playoffs rolled around.
The former fourth-round pick finished the regular season with a slash line of .165/.240/.302, and he also had a miserable OPS+ of 45.
It’s hard to defend those numbers.
Codt Bellinger hit .165 in 2021.
— Patrick Keane (@phkeane) October 15, 2021
Bellinger was the MVP of the National League just two years ago, so his production in the 2021 regular season was baffling.
He was frustrated by it, fans were frustrated by it, and the team was likely frustrated by it, too.
But once the Dodgers secured a playoff bid and Bellinger found himself on the postseason roster, the two-time All-Star essentially got a clean slate.
And let’s just say this: He hasn’t wasted it.
Bellinger was productive through the first five games of L.A.’s postseason run (including the Wild Card Game), slashing .308/.400/.385.
Those were his numbers going into Game 5 of the NLDS against San Francisco.
He then rose to the occasion in the final game of the NLDS with his clutch game-winning knock.
His RBI single had a WPA of +31%, making it the most valuable play of Game 5.
Regardless of how his regular season went, he came through in the biggest spot of the year for L.A.
That’s what counts.
Cody Bellinger had numerous IL stints. He had awful numbers at the plate all season.
— Blake Harris (@BlakeHarrisTBLA) October 15, 2021
Where Will Bellinger Go From Here?
Bellinger will look to keep the good times rolling in the NLCS.
He can’t afford to get complacent now — he needs to continue to play with a chip on his shoulder.
Bellinger has never been a great playoff performer, so his strong showing in the NLDS was a great sign.
If he can find a way to continue producing in the next round, the Dodgers are going to be really hard to slow down.
L.A. will face the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.
Braves ace Max Fried will toe the rubber in Game 1.
While Fried presents a very tough matchup for the Dodgers, Bellinger is probably looking forward to the challenge.
Bellinger has faced Fried a few times over the years and has actually done some damage against him.
He’s 3-for-8 with a home run against the lefty.
A strong Game 1 for Bellinger would likely go a very long way in keeping his momentum rolling.