Bellinger's bat warms up just in time for Dodgers to even World Series with Astros

HOUSTON -- All Los Angeles Dodgers starter Alex Wood needed was a little help. A little help was all he got from Cody Bellinger, but "little" never looked so huge.

Breaking out of a near-record-breaking slump, Bellinger stroked a go-ahead double in the ninth inning Saturday off Ken Giles as the Dodgers edged the Houston Astros 6-2 in Game 4 of the World Series to knot the Fall Classic at two games apiece.

"I hit it and I was just hoping that it faded into the wall, just so he didn't catch it," Bellinger said. "Luckily it did. I don't know what I did, I just had a super sigh of relief, that's for sure."

Bellinger also figured into L.A.'s initial tying run, scoring on Logan Forsythe's single in the seventh after Bellinger's double chased Houston starter Charlie Morton. Morton had dominated the Dodgers for 6⅓ innings.

Before that double, Bellinger had started the World Series 0-for-13, the second-longest such skid in Dodgers World Series history. Gil Hodges started 0-for-21 in 1952.

"I felt good today," Bellinger said. "Made some adjustments pregame, and like I said, I hit every ball in BP today to the left side of the infield. I've never done that before in my life. Usually I try to lift. I needed to make an adjustment, and saw some results today."

After Bellinger became the first Dodger to strike out four times in a World Series contest in Friday's Game 3, manager Dave Roberts was questioned before Game 4 about his decision to leave Bellinger right where he was: starting at first base and batting cleanup.

As always, the manager knows more than the people asking him such questions. Not that the Dodgers and Bellinger weren't working on some things to right his teetering ship.

"I did feel that he went back in the strike zone," Roberts said. "And I think it's one of those things that he's got that calmness about him. And when things speed up, he has a way of sort of resetting and not letting it spiral."

Bellinger became the fifth player in Dodgers history to have the go-ahead hit in the ninth inning or later of a World Series game. The others to do it: Cookie Lavagetto, Jackie Robinson, Duke Snider and Kirk Gibson.

The Dodgers added an insurance run in the ninth on Austin Barnes' sacrifice fly. Then Joc Pederson broke it open with a three-run homer to right-center off Joe Musgrove, all but ensuring a return to Dodger Stadium for at least one more after Sunday's Game 5.

The Dodgers are the first team to plate five or more runs in the ninth inning of a World Series game since the 2000 Mets.

It was especially sweet for Pederson, who was sent to Triple-A late in the season and wasn't on the Dodgers' roster for their first playoff series in the division series against Arizona. Just weeks later, he was instrumental in helping his club hand the Astros their first home loss this postseason.

"There's 25 [players] out there trying to do what it takes to win and today, it took just about all of us," Pederson said. "I'm happy for all of them, and I hope they're happy for me."

Pederson had two homers in 99 at-bats after the All-Star break. He now has had two homers in nine at-bats during the World Series.

It was an emotional postgame scene when Wood went to the dais for his news conference, with close friend and Georgia teammate Chance Veazey nearby. Saturday marked the eighth anniversary of the accident that left Veazey paralyzed.

"I don't know if it was so much a sense of calm, just a lot of emotions," Wood said. "I usually don't get too emotional, but just the culmination of all of those things together.

"There's a lot of important people in my life and events, good and bad, that have happened. And just it taking us to this point today is just really awesome, for sure."

Wood shook off any rust he might've had from recent inactivity and carried a no-hit bid two outs deep into the sixth inning. But the first batter of Wood's third trip through the Houston order, George Springer, crushed a no-doubt shot into the Crawford Boxes in left field.

Dodgers left fielder Enrique Hernandez didn't even turn to look as the blast disappeared well beyond the fence, giving the Astros the game's first run. That also was the end of Wood's night after limiting Houston to one run and one hit over 5⅔ innings.

"It was unbelievable," Pederson said. "He kept the ball low, got a lot of ground balls. Kept his pitch count and took care of our bullpen after yesterday they had to take over a game. Alex really held his own."

Wood's performance should have been more than enough, but Morton stymied the Dodgers, limiting them to three hits. The first, Chris Taylor's single on the second pitch of the game, came at 7:21 p.m. CST. There were no other hits in the game by either side for 91 minutes, until a single by Hernandez in the sixth.

The late offensive surge reversed the bad trends of the Dodgers' increasingly problematic offense. After Morton got Justin Turner on a grounder to start the seventh, the Dodgers were hitting .150 during the World Series and were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position.

However, the previously slumping Bellinger punched a double off the wall in left-center, a ball hit with enough authority to convince Houston manager A.J. Hinch to pull Morton after 76 pitches.

Were Bellinger's adjustments at the plate more mental, or technical?

"Mental, and that can make a world of difference," Bellinger said. "Sometimes you see in the postseason you want to try to do too much and that's what I was doing. Today I tried to make an effort of not doing too much, and when you do that you get two hits sometimes. It's a crazy game."

The Dodgers did not mourn Morton's departure. Instead, Forsythe laced a single to center to score Bellinger and tie the score. That paved way for a battle of the bullpens, a contest that for most of the postseason has tended to fall in L.A.'s favor.

The Dodgers needed Wood to deliver, and he did. Wood had pitched only once since Sept. 26 and not at all since Oct. 18.

After struggling to get his changeup in the strike zone early, Wood got stronger as the hitless innings piled up. It was the longest no-hit bid in franchise World Series history, surpassing a bid of 4⅔ innings by Sandy Koufax in 1963.

"I thought that obviously he pitched an incredible game," Roberts said. "Both starters tonight were lights out. Woody's command tonight, his compete was just off the charts."

The L.A. bullpen was magnificent once again. Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson faced seven batters and retired them all, setting up Kenley Jansen to lock it down after Bellinger's go-ahead heroics. Jansen surrendered a two-out, solo homer to Alex Bregman, but it was a cheapie -- a 353-foot golf shot into the Crawford boxes. Jansen then got Jose Altuve to fly out to end the game.

"To be honest with you man, Brandon Morrow did a great job," Jansen said. "He's taken a mighty load for us this year. For me, the one being here the longest and knowing that our bullpen has kind of been shaky the last few years, now to have a guy like Brandon Morrow, and not only that but Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson -- all of those guys go out there and accept that role. This is awesome."

All Wood needed was a little offensive help. A little is what he got. And it was enough. The Dodgers know they'll be going home, but Game 5 will determine whether they are doing so to clinch, or to survive.

Sunday's game is set up to be a classic. With both teams vying to move one game from a championship, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will face Astros stalwart Dallas Keuchel. This series has already had it all -- homers, comebacks, great pitching, bad pitching, emotional side stories. And we might still have three games to go before it's over.

But the Dodgers have their ace going Sunday, and that has them feeling pretty good about themselves.

"He's the best pitcher in the world and he's been looking for this for a long time," Jansen said. "He's going to go out there and have fun. He's the best."

So buckle up, folks. We're four games in, but this year's Fall Classic is just getting started.