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Cody Bellinger, Cubs' offense explode to rout the Rockies

Ryan Herrera Avatar
April 3, 2024

The chant late Tuesday night at Wrigley Field started softly, but it got loud fast.

Seiya Suzuki stood on first base with one out in the bottom of the seventh when Cody Bellinger stepped to the plate. After he fell behind in the count, 1-2, against Rockies reliever Anthony Molina, a section of the crowd — who remained in the stands despite the cold weather and the large gap in the score — began chanting his name. Within seconds, seemingly the entire ballpark was yelling “Cody! Cody! Cody!”

“Sometimes you hear it, sometimes you don’t,” he said after the game, “but I definitely heard that one.”

Bellinger didn’t take long to deliver.

On the very next pitch, he turned on a fastball up and in and drove it off the video board behind the right-field bleachers. Bellinger’s blast, his first home run of the season, putting the finishing touch on the Cubs’ third straight ‘W’ as they routed the Rockies, 12-2, to move above .500 (3-2) for the first time in 2024.

“It was a well-timed chant,” Cubs manager Craig Counsell said, cracking a smile. “It obviously put a positive note in Cody’s head and did something really good.”

“That’s pretty crazy,” Garrett Cooper said. “I’ve been to a lot of stadiums and I’ve heard people chant people’s names, but to hit a homer as they’re doing it is pretty special.”

Bellinger’s homer capped things off, but it was far from the only big offensive moment in this game.

First, it was Suzuki setting the tone in the bottom of the first. After Nico Hoerner led off with a walk, Suzuki worked a 2-0 count before drilling a sinker from Rockies starter Kyle Freeland to straight-away center field, giving the Cubs the early two-run lead.

It’s not just that it was an impressive display of power. According to Statcast, the 115 mph exit velocity on Suzuki’s homer made it the hardest-hit ball of his major league career.

“That was a missile,” Bellinger said. “I had a pretty good view of it, and I mean, 115 off the bat is just truly special. It’s really hard to do that.”

There was also Christopher Morel leading off the bottom of the third with a solo shot over the left-field wall.

It was another big data point in what’s been a strong start to Morel’s third season with the Cubs. That home run was his lone hit of the night, but he also reached base a second time with a walk in the sixth. Now five games into 2024, his line sits at an impressive .381/.409/.762.

Even more important is the plate approach he’s showing thus far. For someone with strikeout rates of 32.2 percent and 31 percent his last two seasons, respectively, he’s struck out only once through 22 plate appearances.

“Really, since the start of spring training, to me, it’s just been hard-hit balls and a real controlled aggression is the best way I’d describe it,” Counsell said. “There hasn’t been chase. … With the way the chase looks, it just looks like he’s really got a good handle on that. He’s done a really nice job with that, and it’s gonna make him really dangerous.”

The strongest night at the plate, though, was Cooper’s.

Added to the roster on Opening Day after signing a minor league deal this spring, Cooper has taken on a smaller role with the Cubs. He’s had one start each at first base and as the designated hitter, and he’s not viewed as an everyday player for now.

But Cooper took the opportunity to start Tuesday and ran with it, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs, falling a single shy of the cycle. He tripled in the second, hit a three-run homer in the sixth and doubled in the eighth, each one going to the opposite field.

Generally a well-above-average hitter over his career, Cooper didn’t have the 2023 he wanted. He struggled against righties (.666 OPS, second-lowest of his career), and his 96 wRC+ was just his second finish below league average in that category through seven seasons.

There’s a long way to go before he can call this a bounce-back year, but maybe that showing was a sign of what he can contribute to this offense in 2024.

“Coming off a year where maybe I thought too much about a lot of my mechanics, just coming out here and trying to put together good at-bats and forgetting about what my hands are doing, what my lower half is doing,” Cooper said. “Just trying to put together good at-bats whenever I’m called to be in the game, and just trying to keep it rolling.”

Overall, the Cubs scored 12 runs on 14 hits, seven walks and a hit-by-pitch. All but one starter reached base multiple times in support of Javier Assad, who made it back-to-back outings of six shutout innings for the rotation.

Now, it should be noted that they faced a Rockies team FanGraphs now projects to lose over 100 games.

That’s not to take anything away from the Cubs — they were legitimately firing on all cylinders. It’s just to say that, against opponents like this, a team with playoff aspirations should be able to put together performances that leave little doubt as to who the better squad is.

Regardless, the Cubs put on a show throughout the victory, giving however many of the 26,555 fans that stuck it out until the end a good reason to sing “Go Cubs Go.”

“That’s what you do it for, right? The fans make you go,” Cooper said. “It’s tough to be a part of a team where the fans don’t show up all the time, and for them to stay through that — the 30-degree weather and some snow flurries towards the end — just shows the character of the city of Chicago, how much they take pride in their sports.

“That’s something that you love as a player.”

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