Red Sox: Mookie Betts sets franchise multi-HR record for leadoff hitters
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts became the team’s first hitter to reach double-digit home runs and set a franchise record in the process.
When a hitter watches the ball fly off his bat into the outfield seats can he stop at third base to settle for a triple? Had Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts been allowed to do so he would have hit for the cycle for the first time in his career.
Betts finished the game 4-for-5 at the plate with a pair of home runs to go along with a single and a double. Only that elusive triple prevented him from becoming the first Red Sox hitter since Brock Holt in 2015 to hit for the cycle. The rare feat has only been accomplished by 20 players in franchise history, with Holt being the only one to do it in the last 20 years.
While he would miss out on joining that exclusive club, Betts still made history with his ninth inning solo shot. His second home run of the night gave him six career multi-homer games as a leadoff hitter, passing former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon for the most in franchise history.
Betts now has a team-high 11 home runs this season. His earlier homer in the fourth inning made him the first Red Sox hitter to reach double-digits this year. Boston was the last team in the majors to have a player reach 10 home runs. No surprise, considering the team is dead last in the American League in that category.
The 24-year old is no stranger to making his mark on history. Betts tied a franchise record last year with a pair of three-homer games. Only 21 players in major league history have homered three times in a game more than once in the same season. Betts joined Ted Williams as the only other Red Sox hitter to do it.
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There seems to be a misconception that Betts has fallen off from the superstar status he reached last year as the runner-up for the AL MVP award. Why, because his batting average and home runs have dipped a bit?
His .280 batting average falls short of his career .300 level, although that’s in large part due to a well below-average .275 BABIP. His .360 OBP is only slightly below last year and above his career mark. He’s striking out less and walking more than ever.
Betts showed us last night there is still plenty of pop in his bat. His .220 ISO and 38.4 hard hit percentage are both career-highs. The home run total may still fall short of expectations on the heels of a 31 homer campaign, but we have to remember that Betts can heat up in a hurry. He blasted nine homers in the month of August last year. Another month similar to that and suddenly he’s back on track.
The solid numbers Betts has produced at the plate combined with his elite defense in right field have made him among the league’s most valuable players. His 3.2 WAR is third in the league and will soon pass the injured Mike Trout. Only Aaron Judge can claim to be having a significantly better season and there are a number of reasons to believe the New York Yankees outfielder is in for some regression.
If anyone feels that Betts is having a disappointing season it’s because they aren’t paying enough attention. He continues his assault on the record books in his third full season in the big leagues, further cementing his status as one of the top young players in baseball.