Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts has found his power stroke

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Mookie Betts
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 06: Mookie Betts /

Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is having a resurgence in the power department following his three-homer game against the Angels.

This past winter was all about the Boston Red Sox adding a slugger to solve the home run drought that plagued the team last season. As it turns out, a star they already had on the roster is the one leading the power resurgence.

Mookie Betts is back to being a power threat. Boston’s right fielder bashed three home runs against the Los Angeles Angels Tuesday night, leading a dominant effort that ensured the Red Sox retained the American League’s best record.

The first home run of the night led off the game against Angels starter Shohei Ohtani. The rookie phenom from Japan was drawing a lot of buzz leading up to this game but Betts wasn’t fazed. After fouling off a pair of mid-90’s fastballs to fall behind, Betts managed to lay off Ohtani’s splitter to draw the count full. The homer came on the seventh pitch of the at-bat on a 97 mph fastball that Betts sent screaming 411 feet the other way at 104.9 mph. That’s the hardest and furthest batted ball that Ohtani has allowed in his brief major league career.

Betts homered again in the third inning against reliever Luke Bard. He crushed a hanging slider on the second pitch of the at-bat, showcasing the more aggressive approach the Red Sox lineup has taken this year. This one traveled 417 feet at 107 mph.

His last plate appearance of the game resulted in an 8th inning blast against Cam Bedrosian. It came on the first pitch the right-hander threw after entering the game to begin the inning. The ball traveled 426 feet at 108 mph.

Three home runs, each one progressively hit harder and further than the last.

His first homer marked the 12th time in his career that Betts has led off a game with a home run, extending his own franchise record. He now has eight multi-homer when batting out of the leadoff spot, also a franchise record.

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Betts has joined Ted Williams as the only Red Sox hitters to hit three home runs in a game on three separate occasions. Mo Vaughn, Nomar Garciaparra, and Jim Rice have all done it twice.

Both of the previous three-homer games from Betts came in 2016 when he finished the season with a career-high 31 home runs. His home run total dipped to 24 last year, leading some to question if his breakout year was sustainable. Betts is proving in the early going this season that it was no fluke.

We can’t help but wonder if Betts took a bit of additional satisfaction in this performance coming in Anaheim, in Mike Trout‘s home ballpark. The Angels outfielder is widely believed to be the best position player in the game and beat out Betts for the AL MVP award in 2016.

Betts may be leading this year’s MVP race in the wake of this monster performance. He now has five homers this season, tied for second in the league. Betts leads the league with a .389 batting average, 1.289 OPS and 19 runs scored. He’s also tied for sixth with 13 RBI despite batting from a leadoff spot that ensures at least one of his plate appearances comes with the bases empty.

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It’s still early in the season with plenty of baseball left to play. Yet based on the early returns, it’s safe to say that last year’s dip in production was the fluke, not his breakout in 2016.