Betts focused on finishing strong as NL MVP race winds down

September 26th, 2023

DENVER -- Entering the last week of the regular season, the Dodgers don’t have much to play for in terms of the standings. They already won their 10th National League West title in 11 seasons. It’s also highly unlikely they will catch the Braves for the top seed in the NL.

The Dodgers, however, did have some individual things to play for as they walked into hitter-friendly Coors Field for a four-game set. is looking to make history in the doubles department, while is still very much in the NL MVP race, along with Freeman and Braves star Ronald Acuña Jr.

To open the series in Colorado, though, both Freeman and Betts were relatively quiet in the Dodgers’ 4-1 loss to the Rockies on Tuesday afternoon in Game 1 of a split doubleheader.

  • Games remaining (6): at COL (3), at SF (3)
  • Standings update: The Dodgers (96-60), who clinched the NL West title on Sept. 16, secured a bye in the NL Wild Card round on Saturday. They trail the Braves (100-56) by four games for the No. 1 seed in the NL. Atlanta holds the tiebreaker, as it went 4-3 against Los Angeles in the season series.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he’s going to give both Freeman and Betts every opportunity to get their numbers over the last week. Health, of course, will be prioritized as they look to win a second World Series title in four seasons.

Betts led off Game 1 with a single and stole his 14th base of the season. In the fifth, Betts recorded his second single, but he made a costly baserunning mistake that ended the threat.

After posting video game-like numbers in August, the 2018 American League MVP has had a solid September, but nothing quite to the level he spoiled everyone with the first five months of the regular-season. 

Betts has five multihit games in September, though he had much to show in the power department. Betts, who came into the month with a career-high 38 homers, has only left the yard once since September 11. With six games left in the Dodgers’ season, time is starting to tick on Betts’ MVP candidacy.

“MVP is cool, but it’s kind of irrelevant -- we play to win the World Series,” Betts said. “Individual goals are really cool and some people play for that, and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But me, I play because I want to win. … There are so many guys that have played well and there’s no argument to what Acuña has been doing.” 

Acuña entered the final week as the front-runner for the award. He’s the first member of the 40-homer, 60-steals club and still has a chance to swipe 70 bags. The Braves’ right fielder is also among the league leaders in hits, runs and batting average. He has closed out his season on a tear, hitting 11 homers since the start of the series against the Dodgers on Aug. 31.

Betts, on the other hand, has given the Dodgers invaluable flexibility on the defensive side. He has played an elite right field -- which he has done throughout his entire career -- and has been an above-average second baseman. That has allowed Los Angeles to play a resurgent Jason Heyward more in right, giving the team versatility on a nightly basis.

In a lot of ways, it’s hard to envision a player being more valuable than Betts has been to this version of the Dodgers. In the end, however, Betts knows it’ll ultimately come down to which player puts together the best offensive season. He has some work to do, but he’s still up for the challenge. 

“It’s a grind,” Betts said. “You’re starting to cool off a little bit. You’re starting to feel the leaves falling. But you’ve got to figure out a way to catch your second wind and finish strong. I did a lot of work and preparation to finish strong. Still got a couple more games left.”