With the Dodgers three innings from falling into a deep deficit, the rookie slugger sparked a late comeback that stopped the Houston Astros’ surge.
Hitless in 13 at-bats, Bellinger doubled and scored the tying run in the seventh inning then doubled home the go-ahead run off struggling closer Ken Giles in a five-run ninth that lifted Los Angeles to a 6-2 win Saturday night and tied the Series at two games apiece.
“Sometimes you see in the postseason you want to try to do too much, and that’s what I was doing,” Bellinger said. “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.”
George Springer put the Astros ahead with a two-out homer in the sixth, the first hit off Los Angeles starter Alex Wood. The crowd at Minute Maid Park, where Houston had been 7-0 this postseason, was revved up in anticipation of the Astros having a chance to win the first title in their 56-season history on Sunday.
Instead, the Series will go back to Los Angeles no matter what. Clayton Kershaw starts Game 5 for the Dodgers on Sunday night and Dallas Keuchel for the Astros in a rematch of the opener, when Kershaw pitched Los Angeles to a 3-1 win.
Bellinger, a 22-year-old bopper who set a National League rookie record with 39 home runs this season, struck out four times in Game 3 and once more in the fifth inning — his eighth whiff of the Series.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts expressed faith Friday night in Bellinger and again Saturday afternoon.
“He’s got that calmness about him,” Roberts said. “And when things speed up, he has a way of sort of resetting and not letting it spiral.”
During batting practice, Bellinger tried to emulate teammates Andre Ethier and Logan Forsythe by hitting the ball to the opposite field.
“I was always told these really good hitters hit the ball the other way in BP and I had never done it, and I wanted to try it,” he 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.”
Bellinger lined a fastball to the opposite field over Marwin Gonzalez into the quirky corner next to the left-field scoreboard, chasing starter Charlie Morton. He came home on Forsythe’s two-out single off Will Harris.
Giles entered to start the ninth and got into immediate trouble, allowing a leadoff single to Corey Seager and a walk to Justin Turner. Bellinger took a low slider, then lined a fastball at the letters to left-center. He dropped his bat and raised a hand while running to first and clapped his hands half a dozen times in excitement after sliding into second.
“Every day you see him grow a little bit more,” Wood said. “I think everybody kind of had the same message with him: ‘We believe in you. You’re our guy. You’re special. Remember that.‘”
Joe Musgrove relieved and allowed Austin Barnes’ sacrifice fly and Joc Pederson’s three-run homer , his second home run of the Series.
“You like that! You like that!” Pederson yelled to teammates, a la Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins , as he came back to dugout.
Wood, Brandon Morrow, winner Tony Watson and Kenley Jansen combined on a two-hitter — the first-ever in the Series in which both hits were home runs. Jansen allowed Alex Bregman’s two-out long ball in the ninth , the 15th home run of the Series, most ever through four games, before retiring Jose Altuve on a flyout.
Giles, the loser, was charged with three runs.
“They were all crappy pitches, not where I wanted them,” he said. “I need to do better. I need to pick up this team. I need to carry my weight.”
He has an 11.75 postseason ERA, allowing runs in six of seven appearances.
“When you’re a back-end reliever,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said, “unless you’re extraordinarily dominant, you’re only talked about when you suffer, when you struggle. So for him, he can handle it mentally. He can handle it physically.”
Springer put the Astros ahead when he drove a curveball, Wood’s 84th and final pitch, over the left-field scoreboard and into the Crawford Boxes. Wood dropped to a knee on the mound and watched the ball land in the seats and rebound onto the field.
Houston was nine outs from winning for the 18th time in 20 home games since returning to Minute Maid Park after Hurricane Harvey, and from becoming the first major league team to start a postseason 8-0 at home.
But the Dodgers tied the score in the seventh. Bellinger pointed skyward when reaching second standing up on his opposite-field hit. He clapped both hands above his head, said “It’s a miracle!” and pointed for the ball to be saved.
Los Angeles had been 1 for 17 with runners in scoring position before Forsythe’s hit.
Making only his second appearance since Sept. 26, Wood accomplished a feat that eluded Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser and other Dodgers pitching greats. In the team’s 109th World Series game, Wood became the first Dodgers pitcher to hold an opponent hitless through five innings.
Houston had put a runner on in 14 consecutive innings before the 26-year-old lefty retired the side in order in the first.
Morton was nearly as stingy, allowing three hits in 6 1/3 innings. This was the first Series game in which both starters allowed four baserunners or fewer.
“The innings were rolling pretty quickly there the first four, five, six innings,” Wood said. “It kept us both of us locked in.”
Chris Taylor singled leading off the first but was thrown out on a delayed steal attempt that ended the inning, the first runner caught stealing by Houston catcher Brian McCann since June 18. That was part of a streak of 15 straight outs by Morton before he hit Barnes on the right forearm with a pitch leading off the sixth.
Enrique Hernandez’s single put runners at the corners and Taylor hit a two-hopper to third that Bregman scooped on an in-between hop and threw home in plenty of time for McCann to tag Barnes, who tried to stop about 10 feet from the plate and fell. Bregman also threw out the Yankees’ Greg Bird at the plate in the fifth inning of Game 7 in the AL Championship Series.
“We’re a super-resilient team,” Bellinger said. “Taking one here to make sure we go back to LA is huge.”