With Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger Improving, and More Reinforcements Coming, Dodgers Could Be on Verge of Run

The returns of AJ Pollock and Jimmy Nelson provide even more weapons against NL West foes

It has been a bit of a rollercoaster of sorts for the Dodgers this season. They’ve been dealing with injuries, inconsistencies offensively, difficulties in the bullpen at times, and pitcher Trevor Bauer even voiced frustrations earlier this year in the midst of a losing skid.

Despite that, hope has always been on the horizon. The franchise has dealt with injuries to lineup mainstays Cody Bellinger, Zach McKinstry, AJ Pollock, and Corey Seager, while starting pitcher Dustin May is out (until possibly the end of the 2022 season) with Tommy John surgery and reliever Corey Knebel is on the 60-day IL with a lat strain. Jimmy Nelson — who has proven himself to be a reliable option out of the bullpen, boasting a 2.41 ERA in 16 appearances in his first season with the Dodgers — was on the 10-day IL as well.

That changed today with the news that both Nelson and Pollock have been activated. In corresponding moves, relievers Edwin Uceta and Alex Vesia were optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Additionally, Bellinger and McKinstry both returned from rehab assignments last weekend. While McKinstry is scuffling since being back with Los Angeles, he did post a 1-for-4 line with an RBI in yesterday’s 14-3 win over the Cardinals. That broke an 0-for-10 stretch in his return to the big club. Bellinger seems to be getting on track as well, going 3-for-6 with a grand slam as part of a six-RBI effort in his last two games since he began his return 0-for-10 as well. The 2019 NL MVP broke out last night going 2-for-4 with 6 RBI and one walk in the rout of the Redbirds.

That 6-RBI night tied a Dodger record for the most in a game.

Bellinger spoke after the Cardinals win, saying that getting his first hit the night before — a hard-hit single to center — helped him recover his confidence.

The encouraging signs for the team go beyond Bellinger though.

Mookie Betts had been struggling since being scratched from the Dodgers’ lineup on May 23 with left shoulder soreness. He seems to have gotten back into a rhythm since though, as he went 6-for-11 with three RBI in the Cardinals series. Beyond the stats though, he hasn’t been swinging and missing at fastballs in the strike zone, which had been an issue for him lately. That in particular shows that he could be rounding back into his usually reliable form.

With players like Betts and Bellinger improving and the impending returns of Pollock and Nelson tomorrow against Atlanta, the Dodgers look like they could become a force again soon.

As of this writing, Los Angeles remains in third place in the NL West. But with nine games coming up against struggling Braves, Pirates, and Rangers teams, they have a golden opportunity to rocket up the standings and potentially have the best record in the National League by the time that stretch is complete. That distinction is currently held by the Giants with a 34-21 record, while the Dodgers sit merely 1.5 games behind them at 33-23.

It’s truly impressive how the Dodgers have been able to excel despite their multitude of injuries this year. That shows just how deep the organization as a whole is, and with great reinforcements finding their rhythm and returning, the Dodgers could be set up for a great run. The Giants and Padres will continue to be tough outs, but when everything is right for the Dodgers, they’ve proven they can be an absolute juggernaut.

Everything is starting to point in that right direction for the team, and that should be a frightening thought for the rest of the NL West and MLB. While, yes, the division has the makings of a “group of death,” the Dodgers at full strength can beat anyone in MLB.

It remains to be seen how the team will perform on the field with the additions of Pollock and Nelson, but the proving ground begins tomorrow in Georgia.

Here’s one more small footnote too: Corey Seager — 2020 NLCS and World Series MVP Corey Seager — should be back soon.

Scary for the rest of MLB? Not just simply scary.

More accurately, nightmare inducing.