Mookie Betts ties MLB record for most 3-homer games in Dodgers’ win
The sequence repeated itself over ... and over … and over again.
The crack of a bat and thud of a ball, as long home runs crashed into empty seats. The flash of lights and roar of a fake crowd, artificial cheers becoming the soundtrack to a storybook night at Chavez Ravine.
At the center of it all was Mookie Betts, who wrote his name into MLB’s history books with his sixth career three-home-run game. At 27, the Dodgers outfielder matched an all-time mark previously shared only by Sammy Sosa and Johnny Mize.
“I just learned that today,” Betts said of his three-home-run record. “[Is it] shocking? No. But I think it’s just pretty cool.”
Sosa and Mize played 33 combined seasons in their big-league careers. Betts’ history-making masterpiece, which helped the Dodgers to an 11-2 victory over the San Diego Padres, happened in just his seventh MLB campaign — the first truly signature performance of his short time in LA.
Mookie Betts hits three home runs in the Dodgers’ win over the Padres.
“It’s obviously a great feeling to know you can go up and just hit and not worry about the rest of it,” Betts said. “These times don’t happen very often, so you just enjoy it while it’s here.”
Batting leadoff for the first time since Aug. 2, the spot in the order Betts has said he’s most comfortable, the former American League MVP got drilled in the side by a fastball from Padres starter Chris Paddack to begin the night.
On his next three trips to the plate, however, Betts needed just one swing to leave the park each time.
In the second inning, he drove an outside Paddack fastball the other way, sending a two-run shot out to right-center field. In the fourth, he jumped on a high heater from reliever Luis Perdomo that cleared the fence in left-center.
And when an overturned double-play extended the Dodgers’ threat in the fifth, Betts clobbered a two-run blast that landed among a collection of cardboard fans in the first few rows of the left-field bleachers — inanimate witnesses to his wizardry at the dish.
“I put in so much work, I work a lot,” Betts said. “To see some success is definitely a sigh of relief. But I have a lot more work to do. It’s a long season. We want to win a World Series. I’m working just to do that.”
Betts, who added an infield single in the seventh to record his first four-hit game of the season, wasn’t the only Dodger to go deep Thursday.
Corey Seager, returning from a five-day absence because of a back injury, brought Betts home in the first with a long ball to right. AJ Pollock crushed a solo shot to left later in the opening frame, temporarily taking the team lead in big flies with his fifth of the season. And one at-bat before Betts’ dinger in the fourth, Austin Barnes belted a two-run homer to left for the first back-to-back home runs from Dodger hitters this season.
As Betts returned to the dugout following that fourth-inning frenzy, a voice on the Dodgers bench was heard asking, “Who’s next?”
An inning later, it turned out to be Betts again.
Initially, it looked like Betts wouldn’t get to hit in the fifth after Barnes appeared to roll into an inning-ending double-play. The Dodgers’ successfully challenged the call, however, with the video review revealing Padres second baseman Jurickson Profar didn’t step on the bag while making the turn.
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After getting ahead three-and-one in the ensuing two-out at-bat, Betts launched a center-cut splitter high into the night sky, completing his first three-homer performance since July 26 of last season, when he tripled up the New York Yankees at Fenway Park as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
According to STATS Inc, it was also Betts’ third time hitting three home runs in the first five innings of a game, a feat unmatched in baseball history.
“[He has] a lot more power than I expected,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You know that there’s the bat-to-ball. You know the defense, the arm strength, the accuracy, the foot speed … But the way that he can leverage a baseball really impresses me.”
So much so that, prior to Thursday, Roberts had been keeping Betts predominantly out of the leadoff spot, where the four-time All-Star was a mainstay during his career in Boston.
But with the Dodgers’ offense scuffling in recent days, and Seager healthy enough to take the two-spot, Roberts bumped Betts back to the top of the order. The budding team leader, who now has the club’s most home runs (seven) and is the joint leader with Justin Turner with 15 RBI, made sure the move paid off.
San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Dodgers highlights.
“What a special night,” Roberts said. “He just makes everybody around him better. He was all over the outfield tonight, catching a pop up in short right field right behind second base. Hitting the three homers. The hit by pitch. The infield single. He’s just a very unselfish player.”
When asked postgame if he’d been feeling the pressure of the 12-year, $365-million contract extension he signed with the Dodgers this preseason, Betts gave an upfront answer.
“Of course,” he said. “I’m human, so you definitely think like that. But I work so hard for it, to be successful. I’m hungry to be successful. I’ll always have that in my back pocket, my hunger. Obviously, I have to learn new pitchers [in the National League], that will be the hardest part. But I’m gonna work my butt off to be the best that I can be.”
Which is exactly what Betts was on Thursday night, displaying the ultimate levels of his skill set in what could be the first of many record-breaking nights in a Dodger uniform.
“Obviously that was a really big move for us and we’re really excited about it for a really long time,” Seager said. “Just being able to watch him from a first-hand view, it’s pretty special.”
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