Thursday, June 02, 2016

Superstar Ascending

Mookie Betts had the games of his life in Baltimore over the last two nights.

He exploded for three home runs in the Red Sox' 6-2 win over the Orioles on Tuesday night, driving in five of the six Sox runs. He hit home runs in the first and second innings, and became the first Red Sox leadoff hitter ever to do that.  And for good measure, in the seventh inning, he made a headlong sliding catch in right field, very reminiscent of Ron Swoboda's catch in the 1969 World Series.

Now, how could you possibly top that?

Mookie did his very best on Wednesday night. He hit two home runs, and once again in the first and second innings! He became the first player ever to accomplish that feat in back-to-back games. He also tied the MLB record, held by many players, of hitting five home runs in two consecutive games. (Two other Red Sox players have done it: Carl Yastrzemski in 1976 and Nomar Garciaparra in 2002.) Mookie also hit the five home runs in just seven at-bats. And the fifth home run was hit after a pitch from Orioles' starter Mike Wright went directly to the backstop. For reasons unknown, home plate ump Doug Eddings, who had a truly rotten game calling balls and strikes, warned both benches. It really wasn't that close to Betts.

Last night's Mookie heroics didn't lead to a victory, as Joe Kelly had nothing over 2 1/3 innings, and was sent to Pawtucket after the game. Baltimore won, 13-9, in a game that will never be remembered for its pitching on either side. Nobody in the Sox bullpen was sharp either, including Clay Buchholz. He went 3 innings, allowed four runs (three earned) and walked four. He was definitely squeezed by the home plate ump, and a double play grounder that the reliable Dustin Pedroia booted. Buchholz may have "saved" the bullpen last night going multiple innings, but he took the loss.

Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 25 games with a bloop single. David Ortiz continued his torrent hitting with another blast. But the night belonged to Mookie Betts, who now has 14 home runs on the season, and 42 RBI. He is now on pace to drive in an astounding 130 runs, and would be a new record for RBI by a leadoff man in a season. Darin Erstad for the Anaheim Angels in 2000 was the first to drive in exactly 100, and Jacoby Ellsbury holds the record for a leadoff man with 105 for the Sox in 2011.

Despite the loss, this continues to be an exciting Red Sox team to watch. The offense is on an historic pace. But the pitching is a little worrisome. I suspect Dave Dombrowski will be hard at work upgrading that by July 31.

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