Major League Baseball

Dodgers’ do-it-all Bellinger struts stuff vs. Mets

mlb9METS (26-27) AT DODGERS (36-18)
10:10 p.m. ET; SNLA, MLBN, SNY, MLB.TV

In the battle of two of the top young hitters in baseball, the early advantage went to the player who is able to lean on a bit more experience.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger crushed a home run Monday, while New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso showed his own savvy with an RBI single in his first career at-bat against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. Alonso also tripled off Kenley Jansen.

The duel will continue Tuesday when the teams meet in the second game of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium one night after the Dodgers took a 9-5 victory in the opener.

Alonso’s first-inning RBI, which gave the Mets an early 1-0 lead, was his team-leading 39th of the season. That RBI total also leads all major league rookies.

Alonso hit three home runs last week to give him 17 this season, another total that leads all rookies. He nearly hit another late in Monday’s game but his drive off Jansen hit off the top of the left field wall.

“We saw some of that in spring training. We saw it at the beginning of the year that (Alonso) knows how to hit,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said, according to the New York Post.

“He knows how to take the ball the other way. He understands what pitchers are trying to do to him. He’s very prepared and I think that has suppressed (a slump), because pitchers have tried different things,” Callaway said.

Alonso is one of seven major league players with at least 17 home runs over his first 50 games. Another is Bellinger, who had 19 homers through his first 50 games in 2017.

Alonso might want to take note of Bellinger’s career arc. In 2017, Bellinger was the toast of Los Angeles, earning the NL Rookie of the Year award with 39 home runs and 97 RBIs. Last season, though, his numbers were down across the board.

After hitting 14 fewer home runs in 2018 despite playing in 30 more games than the previous year, Bellinger is back to being a force. His home run Monday was his 19th, second in the majors to the 21 by Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Where last season his starts against left-handers were limited, Bellinger is expected to play Tuesday against Mets lefty Steven Matz (3-3, 3.63 ERA). Matz is 2-1 in four career starts against the Dodgers with a 3.86 ERA.

Bellinger’s six home runs against left-handers this season already match his total against lefties last season.

Then there is his defense. Bellinger had two outfield assists Monday, including a throw to get Carlos Gomez at third base from deep right field and short-circuit a late Mets rally. Yet his offense is the real showstopper.

“It’s sustainable as long as (Bellinger) just keeps taking good at-bats and is not thinking about numbers,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, according to Sports Illustrated. “It’s sustainable as long as he keeps taking his walks. … It’s sustainable as long as he sticks with his approach, because right now he can cover anything.”

The Dodgers will have left-hander Rich Hill (1-1, 2.67) on the mound Tuesday. He is 2-2 in eight career appearances (six starts) against the Mets with a 7.45 ERA.

The Dodgers are expected to give catcher Will Smith his first career start Tuesday. Smith was added to the roster Monday when Austin Barnes (groin) went on the 10-day injured list.

–Field Level Media

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