Mookie Betts quickly gets into swing of things in return
Not a bad way to make a return.
With Friday’s crash into the wall in right-center at Fenway Park behind him, Mookie Betts came out swinging Monday against the Braves. Betts missed the last two games with what the Red Sox called a lower back strain, the consequence of that collision.
Back in the lineup and hitting eighth, Betts went 3 for 4 with an RBI. The hits ties a career high for him, although he’s reached the number five times since making his major league debut last June. He said he’s feeling better at the plate.
“Starting to get a little bit more comfortable,” Betts said. “Starting to learn myself a little more and learn an approach [a] little more. And, yeah, just trying to stick to that rhythm every day and hopefully it comes around the corner.”
Betts hasn’t had the strongest season with the bat. Entering play Monday, Betts was hitting .182 with one home run, one RBI, and two doubles in 10 starts this month. But that home run came last Friday and the double came last Thursday. He’s now 5 for his last 9 in his last three games, including Monday.
For the season, Betts is hitting .246 with six home runs and 27 RBIs.
As far as adjustments in the batter’s box, Betts said some come on the fly.
“It’s stuff that I can’t really explain,” Betts said. “A lot of it is just things I come up with as I’m in the box, you know, what I’m going to do and, sitting here now, it’s something I can think about but I can’t really explain it.”
In his first at-bat Monday, Betts wasted little time. He knocked a single up the middle on the second pitch he saw in the third inning.
In the sixth inning, Betts slapped another single to right field. With the Red Sox down, 3-0, he ran on the first pitch with Sandy Leon at the plate, but Leon fouled the pitch off. Later in Leon’s at-bat though, Braves rookie starter Williams Perez picked off Betts at first.
“I just reacted late,” Betts said. “That’s pretty much all I can say about that. Just reacted late, evidently I got a little bit more extended.”
In the seventh inning, Xander Bogaerts homered to put the Red Sox on the board, making it a 4-1 game. Pablo Sandoval followed with a double to center field.
Mike Napoli then grounded out for the second out of the inning, bringing Betts up to try to keep the Sox’ rally alive.
But Betts popped to second base to end the inning.
He did his best to make up for it in the ninth inning with the Sox rallying again. Sandoval hit a two-out, ground-rule double and Napoli reached base on a throwing error on Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, again bringing up Betts. This time, he belted his third single to score Sandoval and cut the Braves’ lead to 4-2. The rally fell short when pinch hitter Alejandro De Aza grounded out to end the game, the Sox’ seventh straight loss.
Like the rest of the team, Betts is doing his best to stay positive in the midst of the Sox’ tough season.
“I’m not really disappointed,” Betts said. “It’s a long season, we still have a ways to go and things happen so I think we’re starting to come together. We put together a late-inning rally there and hopefully we can carry a little momentum into tomorrow.”
As for his health, Betts said he feels fine after rehabbing over the weekend.
“Thanks to the training staff, they did a real good job with me,” Betts said.
And Betts’s manager is certainly glad to be able to pencil him back in the lineup. Betts appeared in all but one of the Sox’ games this season before Friday.
“He swung the bat good,” John Farrell said. “Couple days off didn’t disrupt his timing. Three hard hits tonight. He’s an important player for us and to get him back in the lineup was certainly good tonight.