Dodgers Domination Begins With Bellinger's Blasts
June 26, 2017

It's a comparison that is becoming more appropriate every day. In 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers brought up a Cuban defector named Yasiel Puig in June. Puig would hit 27 home runs in his first 15 games, and soon after his debut, the Dodgers would go 42-8 in a stretch of 50 games. Now it's 2017. Enter Cody Bellinger. Going into tonight, the Dodgers had won 10 straight and 16 of 17. Oh yeah, Bellinger also leads the National League in home runs.

The two players come from completely different backgrounds, yet have had a similar impact. Puig was 22 when he got the call. Bellinger is 21. Puig had to learn English, adjust to the culture, and learn the opposing pitchers and teams (he recently said he had never really heard of the Dodgers until shortly before they signed him). Bellinger's dad played briefly for the Yankees and Angels, and Cody got to be in big league clubhouses as a little kid, waiting for the game to end so his dad could pitch to him. Bellinger came up in May. He has 24 home runs in 57 games,and going into tonight, the Dodgers were 42-15 since his arrival.

If you've followed the Dodgers, you know that Puig has been an enigma since 2013, even getting sent back to the minor leagues briefly last year. Bellinger was only supposed to be up for a week, but a season ending injury to Andrew Toles, and a career threatening injury to Adrian Gonzalez, along with his prodigious power, has allowed him to stay. Unlike Puig, who burst upon the scene in 2013, the Dodgers knew what they were getting from Bellinger. They just didn't expect it this soon. Bellinger, along with guys named Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun, were in the pipeline for next year, and possibly not until 2019.

LA's ten-game winning streak came to end tonight (to the Angels 4-0), but the Dodgers currently have the best record in the National League (51-27). Dodger Stadium, with much owed to Bellinger, has become a home run hitter's park, and the Dodgers are fourth in the NL in the long ball. Their division lead, though, is just a game and a half over Arizona, and 4 over Colorado, the team they just swept over the weekend.

Puig's 2013 Dodgers won only 92 games, but the 92-70 record was good enough to win the NL West by 11 games. The Dodgers defeated Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs, and lost to St. Louis in the League Championship Series. The Dodgers got that far last year, too, so expectations for this season (fairly or unfairly) are for at least a World Series appearance, if not a championship. The team is on a pace to win 106 games, and although that probably won't happen, making the post season is an almost certainty with the makeup of the league this year. Bellinger probably won't be the National League Player of the Week every week, but even a modest slowdown could still result in a big Dodger season.

Note the names Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager were never mentioned, and Puig is still there.

No such thing as a good injury: It was one year ago today that the Dodgers lost Kershaw for two months with a herniated disc in his back. At the time, LA was eight games behind the Giants in the National League West. Since then, the Dodgers are 101-63, and the Giants are 67-98a difference of 34 games.

Bigger disappointment?: We'll save the 'What the hell happened to the Giants?' discussion for another time, but you have to admit you didn't see this coming. I work with a Giants fan (actually a few of them), a Mets fan, and a Cardinals fan. They could have quite a round table discussion about which team is the most disappointing (or in guyspeak, which team sucks more). Those three teams battled to the end for the two NL wild card spots last year, and although none really seemed to want the postseason berth, the Cardinals finally ended up on the outside. This year? Forgetaboutit.

Rocky reward: ESPN heard our cries for national coverage, but it turned out to be a bad time. The network chose to the air tonight's Colorado Rockies-San Francisco Giants game instead of Dodgers-Angels. The Rox lost their fifth straight, falling to the Giants 9-2. The Rockies were on MLB Network against the Dodgers Saturday, but that doesn't count.

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