Betts claims first AL batting title with .346 AVG

September 30th, 2018

BOSTON -- can add his first career American League batting title to his various list of accomplishments this season.

In the final game of the regular season against the Yankees on Sunday, Betts drilled a single up the middle to lead off the bottom of the first. He finished the day 1-for-2 and came out to a nice ovation from the Fenway faithful when ran out to replace him for the start of the third inning.

Betts finished at .346. Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez was second at .330.

"Yeah, it's definitely an achievement," said Betts after the Red Sox won their final regular-season game, 10-2. "I'm happy to take something like that, especially when only two people win it. It's a blessing and I don't take it for granted."

Betts became the first Red Sox player to win the AL batting title since Bill Mueller in 2003.

Not only that, but the star leadoff man is the first Boston player to lead the Majors in batting average since Hall of Famer Wade Boggs back in 1988.

"I knew he was good, but to see it on a daily basis and the effort and the work he puts in to his craft is eye-opening," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora.

After finishing second in the AL Most Valuable Player Award voting in 2016, Betts dipped in most categories last year and hit .264.

From the very start of this season, Betts took his game to another level.

Martinez, who finished second in the Majors in hitting, first in RBIs and second in homers, thinks that Betts should win the AL MVP Award.

"Unbelievable. An MVP-type season. If he's not the MVP, I don't know who is really," said Martinez. "I don't know how to say it, but he's been that player that's really stepped up for us, all the way around, and he's consistent, he grinds, he sets a really good example, on the field and in the clubhouse. He's as good as advertised I guess you can say."

"His ability -- we talk about [Jose] Ramirez and [Jose] Altuve and [Francisco] Lindor -- Mookie's such a good athlete that he covers pitches in different areas of the strike zone and he barrels them," said Cora. "He's flexible, explosive, he's disciplined, too."

Betts was slump-free this season, topping .300 in every month but June, when he hit .290.

He finished with a 1.078 OPS, 32 homers, 80 RBIs and 30 stolen bases.

"He's been very consistent since Day One," said Cora. "He was 0-for-16 in Spring Training and the sky was falling. He was like panicking. But he's been great, very consistent with his approach and it's amazing what he does on a daily basis."

Is Betts the best player in the game right now?

"I do believe so because of what he does defensively," said Cora. "I think that's a game-changer. We know what he can do on the basepaths. Obviously his power now, he's getting on base at a high rate. He's one of the best defenders in the league. You put the whole package, and I know what Mike [Trout] is doing in L.A. and nothing against him, but this guy defensively, that's the separator."