With just over a month of baseball under our belts, its time to take a look back at the beginning of the season. For the purposes of this column, the regular season games in March are being included.
The Dodgers left Spring Training a little banged up. Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill were both on the injured list and Andrew Toles had not reported to Spring Training. This allowed Alex Verdugo to break camp with the Dodgers and Julio Urías and Ross Stripling were both in the starting rotation on opening day.
The Dodgers opened the season with a bang, setting an opening day record with 8 home runs in a 12-5 win over the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers ended up taking 3-4 from the D-backs at home before taking 2-3 from the Giants.
Throughout this first homestand, the Dodgers continued to hit well, working quality at-bats that led to home runs, base hits, and productive outs. Cody Bellinger was amazing. Through these first 7 games, not only did Bellinger have 5 homers and 13 RBIs, he slashed .438/.455/.906.
Things continued to go well in Colorado. The Dodgers went up to Denver and swept the 3 game series. During this time, the Dodgers continued to hit, launching 6 homers in the series. But pitching was a problem. Even a low elevation, the Dodgers had not yet played a game where the allowed fewer than 4 runs.
The lack of pitching came back to bite the Dodgers when they traveled to St. Louis and the bats died on them. Joe Kelly took his 2nd loss of the year and the rest of the bullpen wasn’t much better. The Dodgers did hit a few homers, but their approach at the plate was completely different. They looked like they were trying for the longball instead of looking for quality at bats.
This continued when the Dodgers hosted the Brewers. They lost the first two games, allowing 8 runs in game one and 5 in game two. During this 6 game losing streak, the Dodgers looked pathetic. Everyone that is, except Bellinger, who homered twice and slashed .350/.458/.700.
And then things changed when Ross Stripling took the mound in the finale against Milwaukee. Stripling, along with the newly awakened bats, got the Dodgers back on track. From there the Dodgers swept the Reds in 3 games. More importantly, the Dodgers didn’t allow more than 3 runs per game in the series.
The Dodgers then traveled to Milwaukee for a showdown between Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich. The two entered the series tied 9 homers each. Bellinger’s slash line was better, but Yelich had more RBIs. The two MVP candidates battled it out on the field. Yelich left the series with more homers, but Bellinger left with a 3-1 series win.
The Dodgers stumbled in Chicago, losing 2-3, then went home and swept the Pirates before losing 2-3 to the Giants.
This year started very well for the boys in blue. They were the first team to reach 20 wins and they had an offense. Throughout this column, I’ve only talked about Bellinger, but the Dodgers had other studs as well. Verdugo has forced the Dodgers to give him more playing time, Joc Pederson is hitting well against righties, and the Dodgers have received homers from many more.
But Bellinger shined in the month of April. In the month of April, Cody hit 10 homers, drove in 29 runs, and slashed .416/.505./.843. They key to his success: his approach at the plate. Bellinger walked more than he struck out in April. He led the league in infield hits and stolen bases. His defense was also incredible.
Bellinger’s fantastic month was enough for him to receive NL Player of the Month status.