LOS ANGELES -- Despite entering Tuesday with a 22-12 record and in first place in the National League West, the Dodgers would be the first to say they haven’t yet clicked on all cylinders.
Their pitching staff is suddenly vulnerable after getting off to a historic start. Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger, three of their most important hitters, are all flirting with the Mendoza Line offensively. Los Angeles’ defense has also been shaky, committing an error in six consecutive games and nine of its last 10.
Through it all, however, the Dodgers have been winning more often than not. Why? Because they finally have a healthy Mookie Betts on their side.
Betts continued to swing a scorching bat, going 3-for-4 with a homer and a double in the Dodgers' 7-6 win over the D-backs on Tuesday in the first game of a split doubleheader at Dodger Stadium. In Game 2, Betts scored three more runs as the Dodgers completed the doubleheader sweep with a 12-3 rout.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner on Betts’ recent stretch. “It’s kind of crazy the numbers he puts up. Been a while now watching him be healthy and really get going these last 20 games or so. He’s been really special.”
This was the first doubleheader at Dodger Stadium since July 22, 1999, vs. the Rockies, and the first day-night doubleheader ever at MLB's third-oldest stadium.
Trailing 3-1 in the sixth inning of the first game, the Dodgers needed a big hit from one of their many stars. Betts stepped up to the plate and delivered, hitting a game-tying two-run blast off D-backs starter Tyler Gilbert. Betts’ eighth homer of the season had an exit velocity of 102.5 mph and traveled 391 feet, according to Statcast.
In the seventh, Betts got another rally started with a one-out double. He came around to score on a Freddie Freeman single to give the Dodgers insurance. Betts, who reached base safely six times in the doubleheader, has scored 35 runs this season, the most in the Majors. It set a new franchise record for most runs scored by a player through 36 games since the team moved to Los Angeles.
“It’s why he got paid a lot of money, why he’s won the awards and why he’s here leading us,” Trea Turner said. “Because of games like today.”
The rest of the Dodgers’ lineup followed Betts’ lead. Will Smith got the Dodgers on the board with a solo homer in the fourth, and Trea and Justin Turner also chipped in with homers of their own. The four homers were a season high for the Dodgers.
Before the Turners hit their sixth-inning homers, the last time two teammates with the same last name had homered in the same inning was in 2017, when Tigers Victor and J.D. Martinez went deep in the third inning of their May 16 game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
In Game 2, the Dodgers’ offense flexed its muscles even more. After the D-backs scored two runs in the first off left-hander Tyler Anderson, the Dodgers responded with two runs of their own on a Trea two-run single. Then in the second, the Dodgers put up a six-spot on the D-backs, which was capped off by an Edwin Ríos three-run homer, his fourth of the season, despite limited at-bats.
The Dodgers have said that their best days are still ahead of them, offensively. They’re starting to deliver, scoring 19 runs during Tuesday’s doubleheader. Betts, Freeman -- who hit three doubles in Game 2 -- and Trea Turner are all starting to heat up at the same time.
“It’s from pitch one, the opposing starter is on edge right when he toes the rubber,” Freeman said. “You have to be ready from pitch one, and to be mentally in it every single pitch is hard as a pitcher to have to make a perfect pitch to every guy. When you have a lineup like we do, that’s what you have to do and if you don’t, we’re going to get you.”
After dealing with a nagging hip injury that limited his production in 2021, Betts was struggling to find early results to start the '22 season. In his first 10 games, Betts was hitting .171 and didn’t have a home run. At one point, Betts admitted to allowing some self-doubt to creep into his mind.
But as Betts worked on his mechanics, he also found a way to work on the mental side of the game. He started to read books and listen to his favorite motivational speakers, which include Inky Johnson and David Goggins. Through that work, Betts was able to enjoy the everyday grind of the game again.
“I’m having a lot of fun playing,” Betts said. “Just trying to look at things from a different lens and trying to enjoy each and every day. It seems to be kind of giving me relief and taking some pressure off myself. I’m just enjoying being here.”
As was the case on Tuesday, Betts has been the main source of offense for the Dodgers over the last three weeks. The former American League MVP has recorded at least one hit in 15 of his last 17 games. During that span, Betts is hitting .338 with six homers. On Tuesday, he recorded his first three-hit game of the season.
Little by little, the Dodgers are seeing signs of the same Betts who led them to a World Series title in '20. And just like they did that season, the rest of the team is starting to follow suit.
“We saw it in '20. This guy was alive and energetic and jovial. Last year, there was only spurts of it,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “When you’re not healthy as an athlete and you’re trying to find a way to stay on the field, it takes the fun out of it. So when you’re healthy, like Mookie is right now, you can get back to having fun.”