Mookie Betts continues his torrid start to lead Dodgers past the Nationals

Mookie Betts reacts after driving in a run with a double during the second inning.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

There was a lull in early April, when he went two games without a hit and seven games without a run batted in, but other than that, Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts has been on an opening-month rampage, one that continued with a career-high-tying five hits in Tuesday night’s 6-2 victory over the Washington Nationals.

A sellout crowd of 52,718 in Dodger Stadium saw Betts hit two doubles, three singles, score twice and drive in two runs to provide a jolt to a team that had lost four of five games. Betts now is batting .388 with a 1.190 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, six homers, five doubles, 18 RBIs and 22 runs in 20 games,

“He’s pretty locked in right now — it’s fun to watch,” third baseman Max Muncy said. “He’s so locked in to what he’s trying to do with his defense that I feel like that’s carrying over to his offense. He’s fully in tune with what his body’s doing right now, and I feel that’s allowing him to get the most out of what he’s trying to do on both sides of the ball.”


Betts is a six-time Gold Glove Award-winning right fielder who was moved to second base over the winter and then to shortstop — a position he hadn’t played regularly since high school — in early March.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder is determined to mold himself into a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop, so he goes through grueling pregame workouts every day, taking dozens of ground balls — to his left, to his right, directly at him with pace, slow rollers he has to charge — throwing to first base and working on double-play feeds and pivots.

Carl Erskine, one of the last surviving Brooklyn Dodgers and a mainstay of a pitching rotation that carried the team to four World Series, has died at 97.

April 16, 2024

But his hard labor each afternoon hasn’t slowed his production on the swing shift.

“I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as he works before a game,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I don’t know how he does it. You would think that he expends too much energy, but he’s just so mentally tough that he can handle it. He’s not a very physical guy, but it certainly hasn’t affected performance.”

Does Betts worry that, over the course of a six-month, 162-game season, he might work so hard before games that his tank is not full for the games?

“Yeah, I’m sure it’s a balance, but I can’t not put in the work,” Betts said. “That’s me. I’m always going to put in work. I’ll overwork before I take a day off. I just gotta figure it out.”

Third-base coach Dino Ebel, who has overseen Betts’ transition to shortstop, said the team’s strength-and-conditioning coaches monitor Betts every day to make sure he’s not overexerting himself. They may have to temper Betts’’ pregame workouts at some point, they have not reached that point yet.


“I swear, I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire career, how much work he puts in and how much he’s getting out of it,” Ebel said on Wednesday. “This guy to me is the Michael Jordan, the Kobe Bryant of baseball, because he’s obsessed with getting this done.

“He wants to not just prove everybody wrong but to himself that he can play that position. And what he’s doing right now is remarkable because he isn’t taking it into the batter’s box, and he’s not tired. And he’s out here every day.”

Betts singled to right field to open the first inning Tuesday night and eventually scored on Teoscar Hernández’s double-play grounder.

He followed a single by center fielder Andy Pages, who was called up from triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday and smacked the first big-league pitch he saw into right field, and an RBI single by Austin Barnes with an RBI double to left-center for a 3-0 lead in the second.

Kiké Hernández’s 431-foot solo homer to center gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead in the fifth. Betts doubled to right-center and scored on Teoscar Hernández’s RBI infield single for a 5-2 lead in the seventh, and his RBI single to right made it 6-2 in the eighth.

“I think the thing that stands out most is his plate discipline,” Roberts said of Betts. “He’s just not chasing. He really is controlling the strike zone. Even to be able to get a hit the other way, he’s using the big part of the field.”


The score would have been more lopsided if the Dodgers’ $700-million man had delivered in the clutch.

Three times, Shohei Ohtani stepped to the plate with runners in scoring position, and three times the slugger swung at the first pitch, producing a 108-mph groundout to second base in the second, a routine grounder to second in the fourth and a fly ball to center field in the seventh.

Ohtani is now one for 19 (.053) with runners in scoring position this season, paltry numbers for a guy who entered Tuesday with a .289 career average, a .618 slugging percentage, 1.036 OPS and 45 homers with runners in scoring position.

“Shohei is obviously a very aggressive hitter, but he can do a better job of getting into a count,” Roberts said. “Right now, he’s been super aggressive, more than he’s ever been with runners in scoring position. So we’ve got to temper that back, make these guys continue to make pitches. We’ll address that.”

The Nationals cut the lead to 3-2 in the third when Jacob Young singled and stole second and Jesse Winker crushed a 73-mph curve from left-hander Ryan Yarbrough 429 feet into the right-center field seats for a two-run homer.

But Yarbrough, pitching in a bulk role after Kyle Hurt opened the game with two scoreless innings, shook off the homer and retired 12 straight batters from the fourth through seventh innings.


“The biggest difference was getting ahead, keeping them off-balance and getting quick outs,” Yarbrough said. “With Young and Winker, I was falling behind.”

The promotion of Pages, the 23-year-old Cuban native who had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder just three weeks into 2023 — an injury suffered on a swing in his first triple-A game — headlined a flurry of pregame moves on Tuesday.

Andy Pages had a blistering start to the year in triple-A Oklahoma City that saw the 23-year-old bat .371 with five home runs and 15 RBIs in 15 games.

April 16, 2024

The Dodgers also recalled Hurt and right-handed reliever Eduardo Salazar and optioned right-hander Ricky Vanasco and left-hander Nick Ramirez, who each threw two perfect innings of relief Monday night.

Outfielder Taylor Trammell was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Salazar. Top pitching prospect Landon Knack will be called up from triple-A to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Nationals.

With outfielder Jason Heyward’s recovery from a lower-back injury going much slower than expected and utility man Chris Taylor mired in a brutal 1-for-33 season-opening slump, manager Dave Roberts said Pages would start against Nationals right-hander Jake Irvin Wednesday and get a considerable “runway” to play over the next few weeks.

“I’ll try to get him in as much as I can to see what we have,” Roberts said of Pages, who hit .371 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 15 games for Oklahoma City this season. “He’s a complete player. A very heady player. He lives and breathes baseball. Very good defender. He’s got plus power.


“And coming back from this really traumatic surgery he had last year, he’s been nothing but fantastic since spring training. We’re really excited.”