Fans chant 'MVP' after Bellinger's 2 assists, HR

LOS ANGELES -- Dave Roberts was asked if he had ever experienced anything resembling the day-to-day, all-encompassing dominance that Cody Bellinger has exhibited through these first few months of the season and started searching.

Roberts is in his fourth season as the Los Angeles Dodgers' manager and his ninth overall as a coach, following a well-traveled, 10-year career as a player.

But Roberts couldn't find any comps from personal experience. He instead looked to the team that plays 30 miles down the road and summoned Mike Trout, and all that represents.

"You have to be careful when you're talking about Mike Trout, because that's longevity too," Roberts said after the Dodgers' Bellinger-inspired 9-5 victory over the New York Mets on Memorial Day. "But for a two-month span, that's kind of what you're talking about."

Bellinger recorded two outfield assists and homered in what became the Dodgers' fourth consecutive victory, coming about as close as one can in this sport to single-handedly affecting the outcome of a game.

When the Mets were pounding Clayton Kershaw in the first inning, Bellinger thwarted a rally by throwing Michael Conforto out at home plate. And when the Mets were threatening late -- loading the bases with one out in the eighth, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate and forcing Kenley Jansen to attempt his first five-out save of the season -- Bellinger gunned Carlos Gomez down at third base with an on-line bullet that never hit the ground.

"If the throw isn't perfect and the ball hits me, the game's going to be 8-7 with a runner on second," Gomez said. "For me, if I'm on second again, I go to third -- a hundred times."

Bellinger's solo home run in the third -- a 440-foot, 111.6-mph drive to right field -- gave him 19 for the season, second only to Christian Yelich's 21. His two outfield assists gave him seven, more than any other player in the National League. The Dodgers have played exactly one third of the season, and Bellinger has already produced a major league-best 4.3 FanGraphs wins above replacement, a total that only 31 position players reached through the entirety of 2018.

Then there's this research, from the Elias Sports Bureau: Bellinger is the third player in major league history to accumulate 19 home runs and seven outfield assists through his first 52 games of a season, joining Babe Ruth (1932) and Chuck Klein (1930).

"Superlatives are becoming tough to come by," Roberts said of Bellinger, who easily leads the majors in batting average (.383) and OPS (1.229).

A Dodger Stadium crowd of 47,816 serenaded Bellinger with "MVP" chants when he came to bat in the bottom half of the eighth.

"It was cool," Bellinger said. "I stepped out for a second because it got in my head a little bit."

Bellinger, 23, always projected as a high-average hitter. He had an innate feel for the strike zone, an easy swing and eventually, evaluators believed, the power would emerge. His athleticism was too obvious to ignore.

But few could have predicted that he would turn into an elite outfielder so quickly. Bellinger had barely played center field when the 2018 season began, but he moved there on a part-time basis to free up at-bats for Max Muncy at first base and quickly became the team's best defensive option at the position. Muncy's excellence and A.J. Pollock's arrival in 2019 prompted Bellinger to take over as the everyday right fielder, a position he hardly knew.

But Bellinger expressed confidence early on that the experience gained from spring training would quickly make him comfortable. He became excited about the possibility of locking down his own position and was intrigued by the thought of playing in a spot where he could show off his underrated arm strength.

On Monday, in a seesaw game that was quickly starting to slip away, Bellinger did so emphatically.

The first came after Kershaw had allowed three of the first four batters to reach. Todd Frazier snuck a slow roller through the right side in the top of the first that Conforto tried to score on from second base. Bellinger charged it calmly, gathered himself, and threw to the left of Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who did a nice job of applying the tag to record the second out. The Mets didn't score again that inning.

After the second, off a fly ball from J.D. Davis, Bellinger became incredulous -- eyes wide, mouth agape, arms stretched out as he looked toward center fielder Alex Verdugo and jogged to his dugout. The final out of the eighth, confirmed by replay, occurred a split-second before the Mets' sixth run could score and ultimately altered the course of an entire game.

"The mentality was just throw it as hard as I could," Bellinger said. "I didn't think I had a chance at home, so I just set my sights to third and just tried to throw it accurate."

Statcast metrics were unavailable on Monday, but Roberts estimated that Bellinger's throw traveled at least 300 feet through the air.

"I don't know if they give out Gold Gloves in May," Roberts said, "but it's hard to see it play out any other way."

After the win, which improved the Dodgers' record to 36-18, Kershaw thought of other Dodgers position players who have dominated in similar fashion. He brought up Manny Ramirez's scorching run down the stretch in 2008, Matt Kemp's near-MVP season in 2011 and some impressive showings by Andre Ethier and Justin Turner along the way.

"But this is really special," Kershaw said. "And he's doing everything."