Dodgers offense comes to life in NLDS Game 2 to even series with Giants

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SAN FRANCISCO -- They were partying in the stands, waving their orange towels, and laughing as they changed their traditional chant of “Beat LA!’ to “Sweep LA!"

The sellout crowd of 42,275 at Oracle Park was loving life, getting ready to enjoy the moment they slayed the mighty dragon, mocking the Los Angeles Dodgers as they went down.

Well, they made one fatal flaw.

They actually woke up the Dodgers.

Cody Bellinger turns to Dodgers dugout after an RBI double.
Cody Bellinger turns to Dodgers dugout after an RBI double.

The lights came on and the music stopped.

The Dodgers, who looked lifeless since their arrival to town, became the life of their own party Saturday night, dancing home with a 9-2 win over the San Francisco Giants. The best-of-five NL Division Series, tied at 1-game apiece, now moves to Los Angeles beginning Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

There were plenty of Dodger heroes, but none bigger, or more improbable, than Cody Bellinger.

This is a guy who won the National League MVP award two years ago, and looked like an imposter this year, hitting .165 with a woeful .542 OPS (on-base-plus) slugging percentage.

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No one took advantage of his vulnerability more than the Giants this season.

Bellinger hit just .038 against the Giants this season, striking out 25 times in 53 at-bats.

Yet, with All-Star first baseman Max Muncy out with a dislocated elbow, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had no choice but to keep him in the lineup. He had been playing center field, but with the Dodgers scoring just four runs in their first two games of the postseason, they shifted him to first base Saturday to squeeze Chris Taylor in the lineup.

Bellinger, who struck out his first two at-bats, stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning with the Dodgers clinging to a 2-1 lead. The bases were loaded, and he faced right-handed reliever Dominic Leone. The Giants’ scouting reports showed that Bellinger is susceptible to the high fastball, so Leone threw a 96-mph fastball.

Bellinger belted it into the left-center gap for a two-run double, No. 8 hitter A.J. Pollock followed with a two-run double and the rout was on. By the time the smoke cleared, the Dodgers had outscored the Giants 7-1 in the final four innings, reminding everyone that the road to the World Series still runs through Los Angeles.

It’s impossible to predict what will happen the rest of this series, but the Dodgers have three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on the mound Monday for Game 3, and they suddenly have a confident Bellinger in the lineup.

"It felt good," said Bellinger after the game. "Obviously it felt pretty good. (Chris Taylor) really set the table in front of me with a really, really good at-bat to really simplify my plan and just try to get the run in right there."

Considering the Giants are the only team in baseball who won more games than the Dodgers, knocking them off in the division series could clear the way for a possible path to back-to-back World Series titles.

For now, all that matters is that the Dodgers have new life, as the Giants rudely discovered.

"It's interesting how the narrative changes from game to game and right now," said Roberts. "It's a three-game series, we have home field advantage and we've got Max (Scherzer) on the mound. So I like where we're at."

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Dodgers bounce back in NLDS Game 2 to even series with Giants