For much of the season the Los Angeles Dodgers relied on rookie Cody Bellinger to provide power in the middle of their lineup, and he produced, breaking a National League rookie record with 39 home runs.
But Bellinger struggled as the postseason began, as through the first two games of the NL Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he was just 1-for-10 with six strikeouts. Bellinger then went 0-for-2 in his first two at-bats of Game 3 against Zack Greinke.
He did drive in a run on a groundout, but failed to score a runner from third base with less than two outs. That prompted Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to have a conversation with his pressing rookie.
“I just talked to him after that fly out to left field and when he came back and put his bat back in the bat rack, just told him how much I believed in him and just go out there and what he’s done for our ballclub all year,” Roberts said.
“Don’t try to do too much. Just be you and go out there and play the game with the zeal and youthful enthusiasm that he does. Don’t really worry about results. Just go out there and compete.”
Bellinger then broke through in a huge way in his third at-bat, launching a home run to left-center field off Greinke to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. “It speaks volumes to Dave Roberts, who is phenomenal at communication,” Bellinger said of the dugout conversation.
“If he has something on his mind, he’s going to tell you whether it’s good or bad, and at the end of the day, he’s only there to help you.”
If the Dodgers want to win their first World Series since 1988, they will surely need Bellinger contributing and driving in runs from the middle of their lineup. What’s working in their favor is his even-keeled attitude and perspective even when stuck in a rut.