Derby-bound Mookie homers twice, goes 4-for-4, drives in 4 runs

Despite recent power surge All-Star and his manager downplay his chances to win marquee event

July 1st, 2023

KANSAS CITY -- Do you think is ready for the T-Mobile Home Run Derby?

A day after announcing he will participate in the event for the first time in his career, Betts displayed why his 5-foot-9, 170-pound frame won’t be a detriment. He has all the tools to win the dinger Derby.

Betts clobbered two homers, both of which he took for a 400-foot-plus ride, in the Dodgers’ 9-3 victory over the Royals on Friday night at Kauffman Stadium. It was the 2018 AL MVP’s 26th multihomer game, and his third this season. But moving up to a tie for fifth in the Major Leagues in homers still wasn’t enough to persuade Dodgers manager Dave Roberts that Betts should be the frontrunner for the Derby.

“I don’t think he’s going to fare too well,” Roberts said before the game Friday.

But did Betts’ performance Friday night change his skipper’s mind?

“No, not at all,” Roberts said with a smile. “I will stand by it, but as long as he keeps hitting homers for us, then I’ll take it.”

Betts finished 4-for-4 with two walks, ending his day a triple shy of the cycle. He tied a season-high with four RBIs and continued his monster week at the plate. In his past seven games, Betts is slashing .391/.485/1.174 with five homers and 12 RBIs. He has reached base in 12 straight plate appearances, hitting three homers in that span. 

“It’s hard to say [what’s changed] because sometimes it comes and goes, but today was a good day,” Betts said. “I think me leading off the game with a homer gave us a bolt of energy and we rode it for all nine.”

Royals’ starter Alec Marsh, making his MLB debut, gave up a leadoff homer to Betts on a 93.2 mph fastball over the middle of the plate. It was Betts’ ninth leadoff home run this season, tying Joc Pederson for the Dodgers’ season record, and his 45th career leadoff blast. Betts’ second home run went 402 feet, ringing off the foul pole in left in the third inning. 

“Facing [Betts], obviously the second time after the first homer, I wanted to get him,” Marsh said. “He got me again. The third time around, I was like, ‘OK, this time.’ And he just kept going. He had a hell of a game.”

It was Betts’ second four-hit game this season, but it was the first time in '23 he’s reached base six times in a game. His recent hot streak has helped the Dodgers (46-35) win seven of their past nine, climbing 11 games over .500 for the first time since June 3. 

“It’s clear that we just go off his energy and performance, and he got us going again tonight and the guys fed off of that,” Roberts said. 

Betts’ home run helped no one more than the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect, Bobby Miller, who had allowed 13 runs over his past two outings. Miller, who started 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA and 23 strikeouts after his first four starts, struggled in his most recent outings against the Giants and Astros.

However, Miller picked up his first win since June 10 with 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball, striking out four.

“It was a little bit better, there was some good [to take] from the game,” Miller said. “The offense definitely had my back today. I felt like my line was better than I pitched. I wasn’t too happy about it, but it’s a win and I have to take that. … Bullpen had my back today, too.”

Los Angeles’ ‘pen, which entered Friday’s game ranked 26th in the Majors with a 4.62 ERA, was aided pregame Friday after veteran Daniel Hudson was reinstated from the 60-day IL; he made his first appearance since June 24, 2022, when he tore his left ACL. Hudson struck out two in an inning of scoreless relief as four Dodgers relievers went scoreless over the final 3 1/3 innings.

“I felt good,” Hudson said. “It was good to be back with the guys in the bullpen, nothing has changed there. Get the offense going and get a ‘W.’”

The offense has been sparked recently by Betts, and although Roberts may not believe in his leadoff hitter to out-power the stars in Seattle, what does Betts himself think?

“I don’t think I like my chances either,” Betts said. “I don’t know if I want to take that many swings, we have a second half to be ready for.”