HOUSTON — After looking as lost as can be during the first three games of this World Series, Cody Bellinger figured a change in approach was in order.
So during batting practice before Saturday night’s critical Game 4, the rookie tried something different.
“I decided ‘I’m hitting every ball to leftfield today,’ ” said Bellinger, who did exactly that during BP. “I had two balls to leftfield today in the game and I saw some results.”
Results that just might have turned this World Series back in the Dodgers’ favor.
Bellinger, 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts in the first three games, cracked key doubles in the seventh and ninth innings, with the latter igniting a five-run outburst in the Dodgers’ 6-2 victory over the Astros in front of 43,322 at Minute Maid Park. That evened the World Series at 2-2.
“For him to really keep that calmness about him says a lot about the makeup of the player,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And there’s certain players that just have that innate ability to be in that spot, to want to be in that big spot. And Cody, you can see the heartbeat is really good.”
Sunday night’s Game 5 will be a rematch of the Game 1 starters, with Astros lefthander Dallas Keuchel taking on Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers won Game 1, 3-1. “We’ve got our horse going tomorrow,’’ Roberts said. “I like where we’re at.”
Houston had been 7-0 at home during this postseason, but the Astros were limited to two hits in Game 4 — two-out homers by George Springer in the sixth and Alex Bregman in the ninth. Said Astros manager A.J. Hinch, “They’re two pretty good teams. It probably doesn’t surprise anyone it’s 2-2.”
Bellinger, the son of former Yankee Clay Bellinger, ran his skid to 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts after two at-bats in Game 4. But he doubled to left-center and scored on Logan Forsythe’s two-out single in the seventh to tie it at 1, then snapped that tie with an RBI double to left-center with none out in the ninth.
“Super sigh of relief, that’s for sure,” he said of his first hit.
He is a shoo-in for the NL Rookie of the Year the same way Aaron Judge is for the AL award, and Bellinger said he noticed the similarities in their respective postseasons. Both had periods of futility at the plate and both emerged from those stretches.
“Yeah, I watched and we were identical, striking out a lot, swinging at a lot of off-speed that we don’t normally swing at, and I think that’s the pressure of the postseason sometimes,” said Bellinger, who fanned four times in Game 3. “But like I said, it’s a beautiful game. I can come out the next day and help the team to win after a bad day like that.”
After Austin Barnes’ sacrifice fly, Joc Pederson’s three-run homer with two outs in the ninth gave the Dodgers a 6-1 lead. Bregman’s homer off Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the inning made it 6-2.
Astros closer Ken Giles, in whom Hinch continues to say he has confidence despite numbers that indicate he probably shouldn’t, was charged with three runs and allowed two hits and a walk without getting an out in the ninth. Giles has been scored on in six of seven postseason outings.
“When you’re a back-end reliever . . . you’re only talked about when you struggle,’’ Hinch said. “He can handle it mentally, he can handle it physically.”
The starting pitching was terrific by both teams.
Charlie Morton, who allowed two hits in five scoreless innings against the Yankees in ALCS Game 7, was charged with one run and allowed three hits in 6 1⁄3 innings Saturday. He left after Bellinger’s double with a 1-0 lead before Will Harris gave up Forsythe’s tying RBI single.
The Dodgers’ Alex Wood was even better, holding the Astros hitless for 5 2⁄3 innings before Springer homered to give Houston a 1-0 lead.
“I was glad to keep us in it long enough to where our bats came alive. That felt like us there those last few innings,” Wood said. “It’s a big win for us. We’ve got our guy going tomorrow, so we’re excited to be able to take it back to LA, too.”