MLB playoffs 2021: Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Cody Bellinger plays October hero again

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LOS ANGELES -- Less than an hour after the eighth-inning home run that tied Game 3 of the National League Championship Series and might have saved an entire season, Los Angeles Dodgers hitting coach Brant Brown recalled the point when Cody Bellinger hit rock bottom.

It was Sept. 10. The Dodgers had just returned from a trip to St. Louis, and Bellinger had begun the month by reaching base in only one of his first 24 plate appearances. His batting average dropped to .158, dead last among the 228 players who had accumulated at least 300 plate appearances by that point. So Brown and the Dodgers' coaches suggested a drastic mechanical adjustment that was rooted in desperation, the type a former MVP in his prime would never agree to so late in a season.

Bellinger accepted.

"I think he knew he had to," Brown said. "I think he knew he had to do something."

Bellinger's production had dipped to unfathomable levels in 2021. He made three separate trips to the injured list, struggled to regain his typical power after offseason surgery to his right shoulder and never seemed to look comfortable with a bat in his hand. As the regular season neared its conclusion, Bellinger, 26, seemed unplayable. His confidence, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, "wavered a ton."