During the Boston Red Sox pivotal three-game sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend, Mookie Betts appears to have finally found his groove.
It’s no secret that the start of the 2019 Boston Red Sox season has been less than stellar. There’s been no shortage of blame being thrown around for every player on the team who’s underwhelmed thus far. While Mitch Moreland, J.D. Martinez and a few select others have been safe from criticism, the same cannot be said for reigning AL MVP Mookie Betts.
Coming into the weekend series in Tampa Bay, the All-Star right fielder was hitting an even .200. He had gone hitless in the previous two games at Yankee Stadium and David Price had even gone so far as to suggest that Betts, as well as other stars, could be on the trading block if the team didn’t start to turn things around.
Luckily, it seems like the Red Sox finally have turned a corner with the help of their biggest star. After a disheartening two-game sweep in the Bronx at the hands of their bitter rivals, all of Boston knew that the upcoming weekend series against the first-place Tampa Bay Rays wouldn’t be easy and they were right. It wasn’t easy.
Somehow, the Red Sox managed to eek out three consecutive narrow, hard-fought wins against the team with the second-highest winning percentage in baseball. At the forefront of the action was none other than Betts, who proved to be the deciding factor in Friday night’s game with a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning.
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The clutch knock certainly seemed to restore his confidence. Over the course of the weekend, Betts recorded two hits in each of the three games and raised his batting average from .200 to .244. It was the first time this season he recorded consecutive multi-hit games and the first time this season he resembled the superstar all of baseball knows he is.
If Betts truly has recaptured his MVP magic, then the results will surely trickle down to the rest of the lineup. His ability to hit for average, hit for power and steal bases makes the 26-year-old a huge nuisance for opposing pitchers. Betts’ continued success– as well as that of Martinez, Moreland, Xander Boegarts, Andrew Benintendi and others– will allow lesser-known threats like Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez to thrive when opposing teams least expect it.
This is exactly what happened last season. Teams were so busy game planning for the All-Stars up and down the Sox lineup that they forgot how good everyone else is. Just ask the Houston Astros about Jackie Bradley Jr. or the Los Angeles Dodgers about Steve Pearce.
The sweep of the Rays was huge for the Red Sox for many reasons, with one of the biggest being the fact that Betts is back to being one of the best players in the game. The effect this will have on the rest of the order and subsequently, the rest of the team as a whole will be palpable over the rest of the season. It may have taken him a little while to get it going, but as the young outfielder has continually proven to the Fenway faithful: don’t bet against Betts.