“He quickly became known as the ‘Hit Man’ around here,” Turner said. “It’s a beautiful left-handed swing.”
Beaty has earned the epithet. With a .303 batting average, .838 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 24 RBIs and five home runs in just 42 games, the 26-year-old utility man has become the Dodgers’ latest rookie revelation.
He has delivered some of the club’s most dramatic moments. Last month, he hit a walk-off home run against the Colorado Rockies. Last week, he hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning at Philadelphia that would have won the game had the Dodgers bullpen not imploded in the bottom of the inning, he rocketed a three-run blast that salvaged a win over the Miami Marlins.
“I think with players who rise to the occasion, they want to be that guy,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And for a guy who doesn’t have a whole lot of service time, you just see it. He wants to be that guy. He isn’t afraid of that moment, and he prepares so well.”
Turner has a different favorite example of Beaty’s brilliant bat.
“We always go out on the field [before games] and put on the [fastest pitching] machine and hit off of it,” Turner said. “It takes guys a round or two to get comfortable, to get balls out of the cage.
“Then Matt Beaty steps in there –- and it’s just a laser show from the first swing.”
Before the season, Beaty didn’t appear likely to factor into the Dodgers’ plans. After missing most of 2018 with a thumb injury, the former 12th-round pick had slipped into obscurity in the Dodgers’ deep farm system.
But he has put himself back on the radar this year by swinging a hot bat and leaving an indelible impression in the clubhouse.
“In the little time we’ve seen him, he’s just a pro,” Roberts echoed. “Everything is with a purpose, from his cage work to studying pitchers to the mechanics part of it to when he’s getting ready to be called upon. I don’t need to look for him. … He’s just got a very high baseball IQ.”
Since making his debut with a three-game stint in April, Beaty has been recalled from triple-A Oklahoma City on three more occasions. Every time he returns to the Dodgers clubhouse, he sticks close to the veterans.
“Just trying to learn from all the guys that are in this clubhouse,” Beaty said. “[There is a] good veteran presence. It’s a good clubhouse in general. Everybody makes young guys feel comfortable, like they belong here.”
Beaty has picked the brains of Turner and David Freese, in particular. He constantly quizzes them on their approaches, how to prepare for specific pitchers, how to best utilize the club’s virtual reality batting-practice goggles, and how to stay locked into the game from the dugout.
“The best part about him is he’s very, very prepared,” Turner said. “Which you don’t always see in younger guys. It’s nice to have that.”
It paid off Saturday. Three pitches into Beaty’s pinch-hit at-bat in the eighth inning, he smashed a high changeup over the wall in right to break open a 6-6 tie.
“You’ve just got to want to be in that situation,” Beaty said. “I’ve talked a lot with some guys in the clubhouse about how they go about those situations, and how they approach it.”
After rounding the bases and returning to the dugout, Beaty relied on veteran guidance again. He was uncertain how to react to the unceasing celebration from the crowd, and the collective chanting of his name. Turner and Max Muncy coaxed him into giving a curtain call.
“When the fans are chanting your name, you’ve got to go out there and acknowledge them,” Turner said, laughing.
Beaty’s place on the active roster still appears to be temporary. Once the injured Chris Taylor returns, Beaty likely will be the odd man out. Thus, he has brushed aside most plaudits with his modest Tennessee drawl. He hasn’t begun looking for a permanent place to live in Los Angeles. For now, a nickname, a niche on the roster and a nameplate above a locker is enough.
“This team is special,” he said. “To just be a part of it this year, it’s been really fun.”