SAN DIEGO — Just 24 hours ago, Dodgers star outfielder Mookie Betts was all smiles after hitting his first two homers of the season. Betts and the Dodgers were hoping those two swings would jump-start the former MVP into one of his trademark runs at the plate.
But in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Padres in 10 innings on Saturday at Petco Park, Betts was unable to build on his big night, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts. He struck out four times in a game for just the third time in his career.
“Seemed like every [big] situation, I was up, and I failed,” Betts said. “I let us down. Be ready for tomorrow.”
The first of those situations came in the second inning for Betts. With two outs and the bases loaded, Betts struck out swinging on a 3-2 cutter from Padres starter Yu Darvish. During that at-bat, Betts fouled off a 2-1 cutter that stayed in the zone.
In the eighth, Betts had another chance to give the Dodgers some momentum. With two on, nobody out, Betts went down swinging again on a 3-2 slider from right-hander Luis García. In that at-bat, Betts also fouled off a few pitches out over the plate.
“I always expect him to get a hit, especially coming off the heels of last night,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “He had some opportunities tonight and they got the best of him tonight. But hopefully, [he’s] still feeling confident with what he did [on Friday].”
Following Saturday’s performance, Betts’ average is down to .189, the lowest through the first 14 games in any season of his nine-year career. But if there’s a silver lining for Betts, it’s that he’s been through similar struggles to begin a season before.
In 2015, his first full season in the Majors, Betts hit .200 with two homers in his first 14 games. He finished that season with a .291 average. Then in 2016, Betts started that campaign with a .230 average in the same span. He hit .318 with 31 homers and finished second in AL MVP voting.
“Baseball is so hard,” said Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner. “That’s why I think hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do in sports. He’s really good at it. He’ll be fine. Last night was special and I’m sure there will be plenty more of that this season.”
Though most of the attention is on Betts because of his unusual struggles, he’s not the only hitter in the Dodgers’ lineup that isn’t quite right at the plate to start the season. The Dodgers have scored 72 runs through 14 games and are leading the league in runs per game, but they’re doing it with a few of their stars mired in a slump.
On Saturday, the top five in the order went a combined 1-for-20 with 10 strikeouts. The only hit was a Trea Turner double off García to tie the game at 2 in the eighth inning. With an 0-for-4 night, Muncy’s average is down to .152. Justin Turner is now hitting .196 following an 0-for-4 performance and Will Smith’s average is down to .222.
“One part of the equation is to give yourself opportunities, create traffic, and we do a pretty good job of that,” Roberts said. “But the other part is finishing an inning, and I just think that this entire year we haven’t done as good of a job as we’re capable of. So I wouldn’t say frustration yet, but we’ve got some guys that are still trying to find their way with the bat.”
There’s no panic from the Dodgers given that it’s just 14 games. They believe they’ll click and show signs of being the lineup that came into the ‘22 season with lofty expectations. Saturday, however, was a tough night for Betts and company.
“We ran into a good pitcher tonight in Yu Darvish and he was great,” Trea Turner said. “That’s baseball.”