Mookie Betts was a driving force as the Los Angeles Dodgers slugged their way to an 8-4 win over the New York Yankees in their highly anticipated series opener on Friday at Dodger Stadium.
With the Dodgers and Yankees playing for the first time since 2019, Betts turned on an inside fastball from Luis Severino for the first of his two homers. The leadoff home run was the 41st of Betts’ career, moving him into sole possession of ninth place on the all-time leaderboard.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts looked on as his leadoff hitter kick-started a six-run first inning, which pushed him to compare Betts to a Hall of Famer.
“It’s the modern day Rickey Henderson. He’s instant offense,” said Roberts. “Getting in the box after we throw up a zero, he puts us up in the bottom of the first inning. Guys feed off that.”
Betts might not have the same stolen base ability as Henderson, but the Dodgers All-Star is using his matured skills to make a continued mark as the team’s frontman.
“It’s a super cool comparison, but Rickey is a different breed. It is what it is. As I’ve grown, my profile has kind of changed,” Betts noted. “I’m kind of not used to it. I still kind of see myself as a regular, typical get-on-base leadoff hitter. But if you step back and look, my profile has definitely changed. I should probably just embrace it.”
Reuniting Betts with designated hitter J.D. Martinez in the offseason was a flashback experience for both, mainly because they fed off each other en route to a World Series championship with the Boston Red Sox.
“J.D. and Rob (Van Scoyoc) were the main reasons why back in 2018,” Betts said of his hitting profile changing over recent years. “Having those guys here every day is great. I’m in a pretty good spot and I’m just going to keep going.”
On the season, Betts is batting .266/.371/.551 with 15 home runs, 45 runs scored and 36 RBI. Since May 1, 17 of his 33 hits have gone for extra bases, with an average exit velocity of 94.4 mph.
Since he was brought over to the Dodgers in 2020, as Betts goes, so does the offense, which is something Roberts can lean on as his club continues to play superb baseball.
Now in his 10th season, the 30-year-old is entering a new phase of is career. With two World Series titles, an MVP and six Gold Glove awards, Betts recently explained that being viewed as ‘the best’ is second fiddle in terms of focus and he instead is more concerned with winning above all else.
Mookie Betts riding hot stretch
As the season rages on, Betts’ .922 on-base plus slugging percentage and expected stats are among the best in the league. Betts’ advanced ability couple with his zone awareness has him in the 100th percentile in chase rate this season.
If Betts continues this level of play, there’s another All-Star Game selection to come and he could push Freddie Freeman for MVP votes.
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