The Dodgers rubber game against the Cardinals stretched St. Louis to their limit, turning into a laugher quite early. But the 14-3 win on Wednesday night also highlighted a pair of former MVPs getting back on track.
Cody Bellinger was integral to an LA Dodger-record 11 runs in the first inning, hitting a two-run single and a grand slam in the opening frame. Those six runs batted in not only matched Bellinger’s career high in a game, but also set a Dodgers record for RBI in any inning. Before Bellinger, three Dodgers knocked in five runs in an inning, the last by Jeff Kent in the first on May 6, 2005 in Cincinnati.
It was naturally a struggle for Bellinger in his first few games back, trying to find his timing at the plate after missing nearly eight weeks with a fractured fibula, and only five minor league rehab games in Triple-A. He walked and scored in each of those first three games, but was also hitless in 10 at-bats, with seven strikeouts.
Bellinger didn’t start on Tuesday, with manager Dave Roberts wanting him to rest after three days patrolling center field, and use it as “a work day” to fine tune his swing. Bellinger entered Monday’s game late and, after a strikeout in his first at-bat, lined a single to center in the ninth, the start of a hard-hitting stretch that continued into Wednesday:
- 9th inning Tuesday: 101-mph single
- 1st inning Wednesday: 106-mph, 2-run single
- 1st inning Wednesday: 103.8-mph grand slam
- 4th inning Wednesday: 100-mph lineout to left
Bellinger also walked in the series finale, something he has done in each of his four starts since returning.
That 11-run first inning was started with a fly ball double down the right field line that bounced into the stands off the bat of Mookie Betts, whose offensive contributions have been much clearer since sitting Sunday with allergies.
Betts missed two games in San Francisco while dealing with left shoulder soreness, something that was bothering him for a few weeks, and since returning was just 1-for-16 before missing all but an inning of two games this weekend.
Against the Cardinals, Betts has been back in the thick of things on offense, reaching base nine times in 14 trips to the plate. That included three more hits on Wednesday — that ground-rule double, plus RBI singles in the first and fourth.
“When he goes, our guys have a way of following,” manager Dave Roberts said of Betts on Monday.
Roberts also noted Betts was frustrated during his slump, but it’s also worth noting that a relatively down year for the superstar outfielder consisted of a 122 wRC+ through Sunday. But after Wednesday’s game, Betts is back at a 132 wRC+ for the season.
What a difference three days makes.
Eleven runs in the first matched the Los Angeles Dodgers record for runs in any inning. The other time came in Game 3 of last year’s NLCS, and in solidarity with that performance the Dodgers’ next three games are against the Braves.
The franchise record for runs in an inning is 15, done by Brooklyn on May 21, 1952 against the Reds at Ebbets Field. That was also in the first inning.
Cardinals starter Carlos Martínez bore the brunt of that merry-go-round first, retiring only two of his 12 batters faced. His 10 runs allowed are the third-most ever at Dodger Stadium, trailing only two pitchers who allowed 11 in a start — Brandon Crumpton of the Pirates in 2014, and Chan Ho Park’s infamous two-grand-slam inning in 1999. All 11 runs allowed by Park came in the same inning, the Fernando Tatis Sr. game.
By game score, a stat developed by Bill James to gauge the total effectiveness of a starting pitcher — 100s are rare; Clayton Kershaw’s 15-strikeout no-hitter had a 102 game score, for instance; the average game score this year in MLB entering Wednesday was 52 — Martínez was at -3, just the 14th time since 1901 a pitcher had a zero or negative game score against the Dodgers.
Amazingly, three of those starts came in the last five weeks — Alec Bettinger (-6, on May 2 in his major league debut), Anthony Desclafani (zero, on May 23), and Martínez (-3, Wednesday). All three allowed double-digit runs.
Walker Buehler, who lasted sixth inning for the 11th time in 11 starts this season, hit a two-run double in the fourth. Both of his career extra-base hits, including a 2019 home run in St. Louis, have come against the Cardinals. “It’s a blind squirrel finds a nut thing for me,” Buehler quipped.
Will Smith played the final two innings at third base, this first game at that position in the majors. He made a throwing error on the first ball hit to him, in the eighth. Smith played 58 games, including 54 starts, at third base in the minors, the last coming April 8, 2019 with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Home runs: Cody Bellinger (1); Paul Goldschmidt (7), Dylan Carlson (6)
WP — Walker Buehler (4-0): 6 IP, 7 hits, 3 runs, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
LP — Carlos Martínez (3-5): ⅔ IP, 6 hits, 10 runs, 4 walks, 1 strikeout
Thursday is a travel day for the Dodgers, with current injured-listees AJ Pollock, Jimmy Nelson, and Corey Seager joining the team on the trip to Atlanta. Pollock and Nelson will likely get activated Friday, while Seager will continue his rehab from a broken hand with the team.
Julio Urías starts the series opener on Friday night (4:20 p.m. PT; SportsNet LA), with the Braves turning to right-hander Ian Anderson.