The Boston Red Sox look forward to their starting center fielder Mookie Betts each time he steps onto the field. He may provide offense, or defense, or both, but bet on Betts to always contribute to the team, each game.
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Certainly last night’s starting pitcher Wade Miley thought so, as he was looking for some help to have a better outing than his previous ones. After giving up 9 runs in his last two appearances, Miley was hoping to get his first win as a Red Sox starter, this season. Betts gave him that opportunity:
Ricky Doyle of NESN reported that the unearned run that gave Miley and the Red Sox the victory “was a product of an aggressive baserunning play by Mookie Betts, who broke up a double play at second base in the third inning.” As Doyle described, “[Dustin] Pedroia grounded back to the mound with Betts on first base and Ryan Hanigan on second base. [Tampa’s Chris] Archer made the play and fired to second, where Betts took out Ryan Brett with a hard slide. Brett’s throw to first base was off the mark, and Hanigan scored as Pedroia scooted up to second base on the error.” It is interesting to note how one player’s slide can make him a hero to his team, while another player’s slide can create controversy, flaring tempers, and other chaos. Just ask Oakland Athletics third baseman Brett Lawrie, after doing a similar, if more dangerous, slide to the Kansas City Royals, recently.
Jon Taylor of Sports Illustrated reported that Lawrie’s slide “ignited a three-day long fight between the two teams with a hard slide in Friday night’s game that led to several ejections and plunkings and a lot of heated words over the next two matchups.” Mark Townsend of Yahoo Sports also reported that Alcides Escobar suffered a knee sprain due to Lawrie’s aggressiveness. Betts’ slide may not have raised the fires of the Rays’ bench, like Lawrie’s, but it did raise the Red Sox’ win total, the most important point of all.
At the plate, in recent games, Betts has been struggling. He’s hitting just .200 for the season, after bashing 2 home runs and 8 RBIs in the first 7 games. Once on base, however, he has been making defenses cry havoc, with 4 stolen bases. He needs to raise his .262 on-base percentage to continue being the leadoff batter for the Red Sox and create more runs like the one last night.
Defensively, the man is a human highlight reel. With incredible diving catches and leaps at the fences, Betts has helped keep his name in the news and the Red Sox in first place in the American League East division.
Betts’ slide, last night, may or may not be considered a dirty play in the game, but there is not much, if any, attention to it in the media, other than calling it a hustle play that helped the Red Sox. If it is legal, then what is the problem? Don’t we want our players working hard on every out to make the most of it? Does Oakland want Lawrie to trot to second, resigning himself to the inevitable out? Why doesn’t he just walk to the dugout, instead? Dirty or not, Lawrie’s play was what you want from your players, in terms of effort. Betts, whether his slide was more acceptable or not, gave everything he had to make sure his team had a chance to win, within the rules.
Whatever you think of Betts, you have to admit that he is all about the team. Especially after last night, and you can bet that his team appreciated it.
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