'The modern-day Rickey Henderson': Betts keys offense at leadoff

June 3rd, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts sat in the home dugout three hours before first pitch on Friday and held his daily scrum. Most of the questions were about the historic rivalry between the Yankees and Dodgers. 

Among other topics was just how the Dodgers were planning to slow down reigning American League Most Valuable Player Aaron Judge and the rest of the Yankees’ offense, which received a boost on Friday by getting Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson off the injured list. 

Shortly thereafter, and the rest of the Dodgers’ offense showed that they have plenty of starpower of their own, scoring six runs on eight hits in the first inning to lead them to an 8-4 win at Dodger Stadium.

“[He’s] the modern-day Rickey Henderson,” Roberts said of Betts at the leadoff spot. “He's instant offense. Getting in the box, we throw up a zero, he puts up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Guys feed off that.”

Betts led the offensive onslaught against Yankees right-hander Luis Severino with his 41st career leadoff homer, the ninth most in Major League history. Three batters later, joined the homer party, smashing a two-run shot to give the Dodgers a quick 3-0 lead. 

, , and all followed Muncy’s homer with singles to help the Dodgers extend the lead. Betts put the finishing touches on the six-run first with an RBI single.

“Leading off, he’s Mookie Betts,” said Heyward. “It’s very nice for us, some momentum, obviously our crowd at home feeding off of that. But then just for us to keep that up and him to come around next at-bat, hit an RBI single -- to me, that was huge for us just to say, ‘We’re going to take what they give us and do our best to hit some pitches in and around the zone.’”

In the third, Martinez continued his best stretch as a Dodger, smacking his fourth homer in his last five games to extend the Dodgers’ lead. Martinez has hit eight homers during his current 16-game hitting streak. 

Betts and Martinez, of course, have done plenty of damage in their careers against the Yankees as members of the Red Sox. Betts wrapped up another dominant offensive outburst by the Dodgers with a solo shot in the sixth for his second consecutive multihomer game. 

It’s only the second time in Betts’ decorated career that he has hit two or more homers in back-to-back games. He also accomplished the feat on May 31 and June 1, 2016, against the Orioles. Quietly, Betts now has 15 homers, tying him with Shohei Ohtani and Yordan Alvarez for sixth in the Majors.

“Mookie has been amazing, honestly,” said Dodgers starter . “Mookie has had four homers in two days, that’s pretty amazing. But definitely, the top of the lineup, you can’t ease your way into the game, for sure.”

The Dodgers’ firepower doesn’t only extend to the lineup, though the offense has carried the way over the last month, scoring six or more runs in six consecutive games. But Kershaw also provided a much-needed boost on the mound, allowing two runs and striking out nine over seven innings. 

“He was great,” Roberts said. “The stuff was what we've become accustomed to seeing. Life to the fastball, working in different quadrants. Slider really good. Used the curveball enough tonight. And there was a lot of soft contact, efficient innings. To get him through seven was great.”

After a dominant April that saw him named NL Pitcher of the Month, Kershaw had one of his worst months of his career, posting a 5.55 ERA in May. June got off to a much better start as Kershaw became the first Dodgers starter to complete seven innings since Julio Urías on May 13 against the Padres.

Kershaw has now recorded a win against all 27 teams he’s faced during the regular season. He’s only missing the Orioles, Red Sox and, of course, the Dodgers.

“You're not going to hold 22 down very long,” Betts said. “That's why he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer.”