ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Five MVPs took the field at Angel Stadium on Friday night. Two of them, Cody Bellinger and Clayton Kershaw, carried to the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 7-4 victory over the Angels.
Kershaw dazzled, spinning seven innings of one-hit ball to lead the Dodgers to their National League-leading 14th win.
But Bellinger stole the show. He drilled two homers, marking the 12th multi-homer game of his career and first of the season.
The results came as a relief. Bellinger has been in a deep funk. He entered Friday's game batting .165 with two home runs and a .489 on-base-plus-slugging percentage -- a far cry from the .305 average and 1.035 OPS he posted on the way to an MVP award last year.
When asked if Bellinger might be trying to live up to the MVP tag, manager Dave Roberts conceded the point.
"There might be something to that," he said. "Whether the player admits it or not, when you're following up an MVP campaign, you certainly put expectations on yourself. But our messaging has been just go out there, compete, take good at-bats and help us win baseball games.
"But individually, I'm sure there's some element of 'I want to kind of want to do what I did last year.' And that's natural."
To ameliorate the pressure, the Dodgers dropped Bellinger to fifth in the batting order for the first time this season.
Bellinger was held hitless in his first two at-bats but the decision ultimately proved fruitful.
Bellinger's blasts, in the sixth and eighth innings, served to stretch the Dodgers' lead over the Angels. As for fellow MVPs Mike Trout and Albert Pujols? They remained in the background for the Angels. And Mookie Betts was mostly silent for the Dodgers.