BETTS IS YET TO COME

Sox keep win­ning sans best of their MVP

Boston Herald - - RED SOX 2018 - By JA­SON MASTRODONATO Twit­ter: @jmas­trodonato

The Red Sox have made it this far with­out get­ting much of any­thing out of Mookie Betts’ bat.

In 2016, the Chicago Cubs won the World Se­ries while Javier Baez was 5-for-30 (.167) with one homer and 13 strike­outs, though Baez had yet to be­come the su­per­star he is now.

One year ear­lier, the Kansas City Roy­als won it all while their fran­chise player, Eric Hos­mer, was 4-for-21 with­out a homer.

It all de­pends on what the other guys do.

The ’16 Cubs had Jon Lester, Kyle Hen­dricks and Jake Ar­ri­eta lead them from the mound. The ’15 Roy­als had the dom­i­nant bullpen of Wade Davis, Greg Hol­land and Kelvin Her­rera.

And if Chris Sale, David Price and Nathan Eo­valdi or Rick Por­cello can lead the Red Sox, maybe Betts won’t have to carry the team.

But the Red Sox have re­lied heav­ily on Betts and J.D. Martinez to carry them all year. Betts ought to win the Amer­i­can League MVP when results are an­nounced af­ter the World Se­ries. And he doesn’t want to sit in the back seat while some­body else drives the Sox past the Hous­ton Astros in the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries, which be­gins tonight (8:09).

“I think it’s just one of those things where I have to kind of em­brace it,” Betts said yes­ter­day. “If I have to go out and be one of the pro­duc­ers, then I have to go do it, no mat­ter if you try to push (the pres­sure) to the side or not.”

Since the start of 2016, the Red Sox have two play­ers who rank in the bot­tom 25 of post­sea­son per­form­ers ranked by OPS (min­inum 40 at-bats): Xan­der Bo­gaerts (.551 OPS) and Betts (.667 OPS).

Betts’ 14 to­tal bases in that span are fewer than all but six play­ers.

Over­all, he’s 10-for-42 with four dou­bles, no homers, six runs and just two RBI in the last three AL Di­vi­sion Se­ries.

He was 3-for-16 with a dou­ble in this year’s ALDS vs. the Yan­kees.

“It’s just one of those things where I know I have to go in and do some­thing and help the team win in some way,” he said. “And if it’s get­ting three hits, then cool. If it’s mak­ing a nice play in the out­field, that’s fine, too.

“So I’m just go­ing to do what­ever I can to help the team win. And I think we have a bunch of guys here that can do some­thing to help the team win, so it’s just one of those things where I don’t feel so pres­sured to do ev­ery­thing. But I know I have to do some­thing.”

Why hasn’t Betts’ per­formed up to his ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the post­sea­son?

One the­ory is that he’s putting too much pres­sure on him­self again.

Two years ago, David Or­tiz had to pull him aside and tell him that his tal­ent would take him far if he would “think less.” Betts took it to heart and later cred­ited Or­tiz for help­ing him find his groove.

But ear­lier this year, the Red Sox again saw a player who was try­ing to do too much, to carry the team on his shoul­ders.

When Betts went 17 games with­out a homer in the mid­dle of Au­gust, hit­ting coach Tim Hy­ers re­minded him that sim­plic­ity was Betts’ friend. He needed to trust his hands, not use his en­tire body to try to smash balls out of the park.

Man­ager Alex Cora echoed a sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment when dis­cussing Betts’ per­for­mance against the Yan­kees in the Di­vi­sion Se­ries.

“Game 3 was out­stand­ing, Game 4 I think he caught up in try­ing to do a lot, which is un­der­stand­able,” Cora said. “But I think it’s good that we won and he didn’t take charge of­fen­sively like he’s been do­ing the whole sea­son, so that’s a plus for our team.

“And I know he’s pre­pared. He’s in here in the scout­ing re­port, and hear­ing how bad he was last year against Hous­ton from his man­ager. He’ll be ready. He had a great se­ries against them here dur­ing the year. ... He’s look­ing for­ward to it. I know that, like I am. And he’s go­ing to be fine.”

Betts ad­mit­ted he’s been feel­ing some pres­sure in the post­sea­son.

“I think just the sense is that, you know, we have a lim­ited amount of games, I think, so if you don’t get it done now then it’s never,” he said. “And dur­ing the sea­son you have 162 games to get it done. So I guess there is some sense of pres­sure there, but I have to un­der­stand that I can only do what I can do.”

If Martinez can come up with a few more big hits and the Red Sox can con­tinue to get pro­duc­tion out of the bot­tom of their lineup, they can win with­out Betts do­ing a whole lot.

It’d be a lot eas­ier if the MVP shows up this Oc­to­ber.

“It’s been a long sea­son,” Betts said. “We were suc­cess­ful this year and there would be no rea­son for us to change and do some­thing dif­fer­ent now. I know I have to do what­ever I do — that’s how I scored 120 runs or what­ever it is, just get­ting on base for (Martinez). And we just con­tinue to win games.

“I’m very ex­cited about it. Ob­vi­ously we got that mon­key off our back as far as get­ting past the first round. So we can be ex­cited about that.”

STAFF PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER EVANS

A LOT TO HAN­DLE: Mookie Betts car­ries a bunch of base­balls dur­ing yes­ter­day’s work­out at Fen­way. The Sox right fielder hopes to be able to start putting bat to ball with some con­sis­tency as the Sox open play against the Hous­ton Astros in the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries tonight.

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