'Who are you?' Busch introduces himself with 1st MLB HR

Pepiot enjoys 2nd straight strong outing; Betts has huge series ahead of Boston return

August 25th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- During 's second-inning at-bat in Thursday afternoon's regularly scheduled game, a simple yet cutting barb was flung down from the Progressive Field grandstand.

“Who are you, Michael?” a fan yelled down. “I don’t know you.”

Two innings later, Busch, the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect and MLB's No. 47 overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline, showed everyone who he can be by blasting his first career home run to give the Dodgers the lead in their 9-3 win over the Guardians.

Busch, who was playing in his second game since being recalled from Triple-A for the third time this season, finished 1-for-4 with the home run and a sac fly for a two-RBI game. Both of his starts have come as the designated hitter, which is the position he’ll likely fill for the time being while J.D. Martinez is on the 10-day injured list with groin tightness.

“That first at-bat [a strikeout] didn’t go the way I wanted, but I made a little adjustment, got a good pitch to hit and threw the barrel on it,” Busch said.

Thursday marked the first multi-RBI game in Busch’s short MLB career. In his first stint in the Majors, Busch hit .211 in a seven-game cameo between April and May. In his second stint, he hit .192 over eight games in June. While he hit .343 with six home runs in August with Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to his callup, Busch said there isn’t one specific thing that’s led to his resurgence.

“Nothing crazy, but I’ve felt pretty good lately,” Busch said. “I’ve been slowing things down and trying to swing at good pitches to hit. That’s, ultimately, what it is.”

Mookie Betts continued his hot streak by going 2-for-3 with a walk and an RBI.  After recording five hits in the completion of Wednesday's suspended game earlier in the day -- a 6-1 victory -- Betts finished the series 9-for-11 with two doubles, three RBIs and two walks, raising his batting average 12 points to .310. This is the latest he has hit .300 in a season since his MVP season in 2018, when he led the Majors with his .346 batting average.

“As long as we win, that’s the most important thing,” Betts said. “The main thing has been continuing to hit the ball hard and having good at-bats. Those are the things I can control.”

Manager Dave Roberts was more succinct in his assessment of Betts’ recent play. 

“Right now, I think he’s the best player on the planet,” he said.

Betts put the Dodgers on the board with a third-inning single, and then came around to score on a groundout by David Peralta. After Busch’s home run in the fourth, the Dodgers added on to their lead in the fifth thanks to a Ramón Laureano error in center field that allowed Freddie Freeman to score followed by James Outman's two-run single and Busch's sacrifice fly.

They added another run in the ninth inning on a 401-foot home run from Kiké Hernández. The dinger closed out a strong series for Hernández, who had four extra-base hits and four RBIs.

After the Dodgers had to use six relievers in the conclusion of the suspended game, Roberts pieced together nine innings in an unconventional way. Using lefty Caleb Ferguson as an opener, Roberts went to super-utility pitcher Ryan Yarbrough for three innings before handing the ball to Ryan Pepiot.

Pepiot, the 27th man for the second game of the day, went four innings, allowing three hits and one run (Gabriel Arias' home run), while striking out six.

“I’m feeling good attacking the zone, and getting ahead early,” Pepiot said.

It was the second straight strong outing for the Dodgers’ No. 10 prospect after he opened his season with five innings of one-run ball against the Marlins last week. After opening the season with a strained oblique that put him behind the eight-ball, Pepiot says he’s the healthiest he’s felt in ‘23.

“I’ve watched some video from last year, and it feels like how I felt last year,” he said.

Next up for the Dodgers is a trip to Boston in what will likely be an emotional return for Betts, who spent six years with the Red Sox, winning an MVP, four Gold Gloves, four All-Star nods, four Silver Sluggers and a World Series ring.

“I don’t think I’m ready [for Boston] yet, but I think I’ll be ready when I get there,” Betts said. “I’m looking forward to it. The main thing is that I want to see the people who made Boston so enjoyable. Once I see them, hopefully everything will go smoothly, and I’ll be able to turn the page a little bit on an awesome chapter of my life.”