Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Cody Bellinger sees ‘exciting … fun season’ as Dodgers and Padres battle for NL West crown

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In 2019, Cody Bellinger won the NL MVP award. In 2020, Bellinger and his Dodgers won the World Series. So how did you feel to have these two very important accomplishments under your belt during spring 2021 training?

“It really and really doesn’t feel any different,” Bellinger told SN last week, while doing a series of sponsored interviews on behalf of Flonase (Bellinger says he uses the nasal spray, btw). “It’s really good, obviously, but it’s the same. Everyone works the same, everyone does the same, everyone is getting ready for the season.

More of the same is good for the Dodgers.

AFTER: SN staff predictions for the 2021 MLB season

The club have won 345 games in the last four regular seasons, and 33 more in the last four playoffs. These two numbers are the best in the big ones, and only the Astros (340 and 33) come close. After that, only the Yankees (327 and 18) and Indians (321 and two) top 315 regular season win the last four years.

But it’s amazing how much the narrative around the Dodgers has changed. For so long, they were seen as the team that always had fatal hiccups in October, the team that couldn’t finish the job. Clayton Kershaw was the future Hall of Famer who couldn’t win a title.

Remember, the franchise has won the NL West eight years in a row, finishing at least 20 out of 0.500 games each year, and didn’t win the first World Series title down the home stretch until 2020.

Now? The Dodgers have won the World Series – after narrowly avoiding elimination against Atlanta in the NLCS – and suddenly they look almost unbeatable, if they’re healthy in October. Oh, and Kershaw had a 2.31 with 14 strikeouts in two World Series starts, erasing that story entirely.

“Everyone wanted it for Kersh,” Bellinger said. “He deserves it more than anyone. It was special.”

But if the Dodgers want to win back-to-back titles in 2021, their toughest competition is the team two hours south on Interstate 5 along the California coast.

The rivalry between the Padres and the Dodgers didn’t exist for a while, mainly because the Padres weren’t very good. San Diego won 90 or more games just once from 1999 to 2019. That changed last year, when San Diego finished with the second best record in the NL (behind the Dodgers) and the third best record in the majors. . The Dodgers went 6-4 against the Padres in the shortened 2021 regular season, then swept the Padres in the second round of the NL playoffs.

With young superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. as the face of the franchise, the Padres have built a club that will be a World Series contender for years to come. By most predictions – writers, broadcasters and Vegas – the Padres are considered the second-best team in the National League. And they’re in the same division as the Dodgers.

“It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a fun season, against these guys, ”Bellinger said. “They have a lot of talented guys. Obviously Tatis, but guys like (Eric) Hosmer and (Manny) Machado… a lot of guys out there who can play.

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The Padres have been very aggressive this offseason, stepping up their rotation with trades for Blake Snell, the winner of the 2018 AL Cy Young – and could have been the hero of the 2020 World Series – and Yu Darvish, who finished second in the vote. by NL Cy Young last. year. These deals were so mind-boggling that Joe Musgrove’s trading was almost an afterthought. But Musgrove, who struck out 12.5 batters in nine innings and posted a 3.42 FIP in eight starts with the Pirates last year, will fit in well midway through the rotation with Chris Paddack.

Oh, and they gave Tatis a 14-year, $ 340 million contract extension. And they signed infielder Ha-Seong Kim, a KBO star. And they re-signed jack-of-all-trades Jurickson Profar. And they signed relievers Mark Melancon and Keone Kela. It was quite the offseason.

The Dodgers have noticed, of course. Yet they are confident in what they have.

“I hope we can just repeat what we did,” Bellinger said. “That’s what we’re going to do, just focus on our game and don’t worry about someone else’s game.”

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