Betts gets a bit comfy
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mookie Betts is not quite where he wants to be at the plate. If he’s still got room to improve, watch out.
“Better, just trying to continue to be consistent and help the team in whatever way,” said Betts after he drove in two runs with two hits, including a home run, in last night’s 3-1 victory over the Rays. “I was able to get a couple of key hits today. I’ve got to continue it through the rest of the season.”
Calling those couple of hits “key” is putting it mildly.
Betts began the scoring when he turned on an Alex Cobb fastball that strayed into his happy zone on the inner half of the plate, belting it beyond the back of the left-field bleachers for a 1-0 lead in the second inning.
The home run was No. 22 on the season but more importantly it continued the power and overall hitting surge he has been on of late. After going homerless in 123 at-bats and hitting just one home run in his previous 45 games, Betts now has four home runs in his last 34 at-bats.
“He’s in a 10-day run here where we’re seeing the guy we saw for two years leading into this year,” said Sox manager John Farrell. “He gets a fastball first at-bat where they try to run one in on him and he’s so quick in there, as he was in the Oakland series when we saw a couple home runs. He’s relaxed, confident and that leads to the comfortability that we’re seeing.”
The second run Betts knocked in featured more intrigue than one swing of a bat. With Andrew Benintendi on first base with one out and Betts at the plate, Cobb made what looked like a legal pickoff throw to first but home plate umpire Jeff Nelson called a balk. Cobb could not believe it and became more flustered when Nelson called what could have been strike three on Betts a ball. Benintendi alertly stole third base and from there, Betts singled him in.
Cobb admitted the non-strike call was a big deal.
“Yeah, I get these guys miss calls, it’s tough to do what they do,” said Cobb. “Just in that moment, one of the best hitters in the game is up, and there aren’t too many ways you can get him out. I thought I executed the pitch really well there.”
Betts was not going to complain about Nelson. He admitted to having a thought about Benintendi’s steal attempt.
“Just be safe,” said Betts. “It was one of those games, we tried, we didn’t have a whole lot of baserunners but when we get guys on base we have to find a way to score them. Luckily he was able to be safe but it was a good aggressive play there.”
Nelson’s call and Benintendi’s heads-up play meant Betts could focus on doing what he does best, or, what he’s doing “better.”
“I mean, with a guy at second you have to get the base hit,” said Betts. “With a guy on third there, just kind of trying to elevate something but I had two strikes, so the main thing there was just to put in play.”