BOSTON -- Mookie Betts used his return to the lineup after a brief absence as a day to make history on multiple fronts. It was also a reminder that Betts is back at the top of his game -- and maybe better than ever -- after a slight downturn last
BOSTON -- Mookie Betts used his return to the lineup after a brief absence as a day to make history on multiple fronts. It was also a reminder that Betts is back at the top of his game -- and maybe better than ever -- after a slight downturn last year.
Boston's leadoff man mashed three home runs, and his team needed all of them in a 5-4 victory over the Royals in Wednesday's matinee rubber game at Fenway Park.
• Betts is Top 10 all-time in three-homer performances
By turning in the fourth three-homer performance of his career, all off Royals starter Danny Duffy, Betts passed the legendary Ted Williams for the most in team history.
"It's pretty cool," Betts said. "He hit .400 one year. He did a whole bunch of other things I haven't done. Just to know my name is amongst his is pretty cool."
At the moment, Betts stacks up with anyone in the game with his start this season. He and Mike Trout share the MLB home run lead with 11 apiece. Betts is slashing .365/.461/.823.
While Betts is known as more of a playmaker than a slugger -- as evidenced by the fact he leads off -- his power is threatening to be even more of a factor than 2016, when he belted 31 homers and finished second to Trout in the race for the American League MVP Award.
"I know what I can do and I know I have the ability to drive the ball, and I'm kind of showing it," Betts said. "I think it's more surprising, kind of, to everybody else. Some of it is surprising to myself, like the last one today, but I know I can drive it. It's just a matter of using the whole field and driving it everywhere."
Since 2016, Betts has 11 multi-homer games, tied with Manny Machado for second most in MLB over that period. Only Giancarlo Stanton (14) has more.
It was the second time this season Betts has gone the trifecta route, as the leadoff man also did it against the Angels on April 17. Betts had a pair of three-homer games in '16 as well.
The only two players in history to have multiple three-homer games in the same season more than once in a career? Betts and Johnny Mize, who did it in 1938 and '40.
Betts and future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols are the only active players with four three-homer games.
Perhaps most impressive is that Betts is the first player in Major League history to produce four three-homer games before his 26th birthday. Ralph Kiner and Boog Powell had done it three times before turning 26.
Due to tightness in his right hamstring, Betts hadn't started since Saturday. But he swiftly made up for lost time -- going 4-for-4.
"It's fun, I told [manager] Alex [Cora] we should give him three days off more often," Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez said. "Because when we got to Anaheim it was the same thing. To be able to do that, when you're feeling it like that like Mookie's been feeling it, it's definitely fun to watch."
The long-ball brigade started in the bottom of the fourth, at which point the Red Sox trailed, 3-0. Betts changed that with a rocket to left-center that went over everything. The drive had a projected distance of 452 feet -- the longest homer Betts has hit since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015.
Betts cut Kansas City's lead to 3-1.
And in the fifth, Betts was at it again, lofting one down the line in left that just stayed fair to give the Red Sox a 4-3 lead. It was No. 10 on the season for the star right fielder.
Betts wasn't done. He again took Duffy deep, this time with a towering shot to center that traveled a projected distance of 440 feet. The first and third homers by Betts were the two longest hit by Red Sox players this season.
After the third homer, Betts came out for a curtain call.
"I guess I've got the best seat in the house," marveled Andrew Benintendi, who was in the on-deck circle for all three home runs.
"Well, that was obviously a great performance," Cora said. "The last one, a pitch up in the zone, he was able to get the hands above it and drill it, that was impressive. He's doing an outstanding job being ready to hit from the get-go and setting the tempo for the team."
With Betts setting the tempo, perhaps it's no surprise the Red Sox have the best record in baseball -- 22-8.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.