Before the Los Angeles Dodgers popped the champagne corks to begin celebrating their fifth straight NL West title Friday night, rookie Cody Bellinger etched his name in the history books one more time.
The 22-year-old slugger set a new home run record for the NL rookies, crushing his 39th of the season in a 4-2 win against the San Francisco Giants. Bellinger smacked a three-run shot off Jeff Samardzija to cap a four-run Dodgers rally, which all but sealed the game and the division.
Bellinger broke a record that was shared by Wally Berger (1930) and Frank Robinson (1956). He’s on the verge now of becoming only the third player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs in a season he started at 21 years old or younger. Bellinger turned 22 on July 13, the same week he participated in the Home Run Derby and the All-Star Game in Miami.
The occasion for Bellinger’s record-breaking homer was fitting. Though Bellinger was not on the team’s opening day roster and didn’t appear to be a part of their plans this season, he provided an undeniable spark upon his call up on April 25 and contributed greatly to their success.
Bellinger hit five home runs over his first 10 games and his confidence only grew from there.
His importance to the lineup only grew too as Adrian Gonzalez went down with an injury and Joc Pederson remained mired in a season-long slump. Bellinger more than picked up the slack, hitting home runs at a historic pace while helping the team rattle off 69 wins in 87 games over the summer.
It wasn’t all Cody Bellinger, but it was enough to know the Dodgers wouldn’t have been anywhere close to the same team without him. He’s a lock for NL Rookie of the Year, and he’s among the best stories in a season filled with historic rookie play and surprise breakthroughs.
And the scary thing is the best is yet to come.
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