January 29, 2023

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Mookie puts his stamp on Dodgers' 7th straight win

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PHILADELPHIA — It’s no secret that Mookie Betts can impact a game at the plate, on the bases or in the field on any given night — and that was on full display Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park.

Betts homered in the third. He had a two-run double in the fifth. He had a couple of adventures on the basepaths. But it was his 92.6 mph dart to cut down the potential go-ahead run that ultimately saved the day.

Facing a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the seventh inning of a tie ballgame, Betts made a charging grab on a sinking liner, then uncorked a perfect strike to catcher Will Smith to complete the double play. The Dodgers immediately added two runs in the ensuing frame en route to a 7-4 win — their seventh straight victory.

Along with his potential game-saving throw, Betts reached base four times on Saturday, going 3-for-4 with a walk, three RBIs and a run scored.

“He was great,” manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s why he’s one of the best players in baseball. What he did in the box, what he did in right field — he’s just playing elite baseball right now, and we need every bit of it.”

Perhaps the only thing able to slow him down on a 93-degree night in Philadelphia was the area around the second-base bag.

Betts slipped on the base and took a scary tumble on his two-run double in the fifth. He immediately clutched at his left arm as he scampered back to the bag, prompting manager Dave Roberts to come sprinting out of the dugout with a trainer. Betts said his shoulder “went numb” momentarily, but the feeling quickly returned and he chalked it up as a “freak accident.”

Obviously, Betts stayed in the game, but it’s in that same spot on the field that he encountered more trouble in the top of the seventh. After roping a leadoff single — his third hit of the night — and advancing to second on a Trea Turner base hit, Betts found himself in a rundown when he was caught leaning on a pick-off attempt.

Betts initially tried to scramble back to the base before pivoting in the same spot he took a spill earlier in the night and charging toward third base. He attempted to avoid a tag from third baseman Alec Bohm and dived headfirst for the bag — but he was ruled out, a call that stood following a lengthy review.

Betts wasted no time atoning for that rare baserunning mistake, though, catching Bohm’s liner in the bottom half of the frame and easily throwing out Odúbel Herrera. It was Betts’ fastest-tracked outfield assist at the plate since a 96.8 mph throw on June 16, 2017, with the Red Sox.

“I made a bad baserunning play there where we could have taken the lead,” Betts said. “But then I’m able to make up for it on the defensive end. … There was a lot going on in that game, but it was definitely a team win right there.”

While Betts’ 92.6 mph throw stole the show, that type of velocity was nothing compared to what he did with his bat. Betts’ three balls in play had exit velocities of 102.4 mph (single), 102.3 mph (home run) and 98.2 mph (double).

During the Dodgers’ seven-game winning streak, he’s hitting .393 (11-for-28) with eight extra-base hits (including three homers), eight RBIs and 10 runs scored. After a bit of a slow start over the first couple weeks of the season, Betts is hitting .320 with seven homers, 18 RBIs, 27 runs and a .999 OPS over his last 24 games — all while racking up just as many walks (12) as strikeouts.

“I’m just enjoying the process instead of trying to hunt for results,” Betts said. “Once I kind of changed my mind to just enjoy the process and just let the game be the game, it’s just kind of come out being pretty good. Just got to continue to do the same thing and just have fun playing.”

With seven straight wins, including six come-from-behind victories in that stretch, there’s been plenty to enjoy inside the Dodgers’ clubhouse over the past week.

“It’s contagious,” Roberts said of Betts’ torrid stretch. “I think he said it best, where he just wants to go out there and just play the game and have fun. That’s just who he is, intrinsically. I do believe his mindset of just going out there and having fun and competing and enjoying the game has led to that success.

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