Betts gets a bit comfy

Boston Herald - - SPORTS - By MICHAEL SIL­VER­MAN Twit­ter: @MikeSil­ver­manBB

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.”

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