March 28, 2023

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One MVP steals another's thunder as Belli smacks 2 homers

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SAN DIEGO – A large Dodgers contingent in San Diego was expecting to watch Clayton Kershaw pass Don Sutton for the franchise’s all-time strikeout record. Kershaw struck out three, keeping him three shy of Sutton’s record. He’ll get another crack next weekend against the Tigers at Dodger Stadium.

But instead of watching Kershaw accomplish yet another feat, everyone in attendance was reminded of what Cody Bellinger is capable of at the plate. The former National League Most Valuable Player hit two home runs in the Dodgers’ 10-2 victory over the Padres in the series finale at Petco Park. It was Bellinger’s first multihomer game of the season, matching his total from each of his past two seasons.

Just last September, as struggles compounded at the plate for Bellinger, the outfielder was relegated to a platoon player for the Dodgers. Statistically, the 26-year-old was one of the worst hitters in the Majors in 2021. It was the most shocking development for a player who won an NL MVP just two years prior.

Well, what a difference seven months can make.

Bellinger came into Spring Training fully healthy after dealing with multiple injuries in ‘21. He had a miserable spring, striking out in half of his Cactus League at-bats. Trusting his process, Bellinger’s confidence never wavered.

His first homer on Sunday was a perfect depiction of the progress Bellinger has made over the past few months. In ‘21, Bellinger hit just .111 with one homer off left-handed pitchers. On Sunday, Bellinger drove an 88 mph changeup from lefty Sean Manaea and sent it over the center-field wall in the fourth inning. It had an exit velocity of 104.4 mph and traveled 404 feet, according to Statcast.

In the fifth, Bellinger fell behind in the count but stayed through a Dinelson Lamet slider, sending it into the right-center-field seats for a three-run homer. That homer traveled 412 feet and had an exit velocity of 105.4 mph. It was just the fourth time since ‘20 that Bellinger drove in four or more runs in a game.

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