On night of many firsts, Mookie Betts shows type of impact he can have
|07.03.14 at 3:18 am ET|
It was a night of many firsts for Mookie Betts on Wednesday. First major league home run and RBI, first hit at Fenway Park, even his first major league strikeout. But in a weird coincidence, there was a little bit of familiarity for Betts as well.
The 21-year-old deposited a 2-1 high changeup from Cubs reliever Carlos Villanueva into the Monster seats for his first big league homer, and strangely enough, the man who caught Betts’ inaugural long ball is someone Betts had played against in summer league baseball during his high school days in Tennessee. And as if the story wasn’t unbelievable as it is, Betts’ former high school opponent was at Fenway randomly, and not to watch Betts play.
It’s quite a small world.
While Betts’ two-run home run came in the fifth inning of a 16-9 drubbing at the hands of the Cubs, his play stood out as one of very few highlights from an otherwise ugly rout.
The display of power is still somewhat new to Betts, who didn’t hit a home run until his second professional season. Since then, though, he’s hit 23 over the course of 204 games at four different levels in the minors. He hit a pair in 106 plate appearances with Pawtucket before being promoted. Betts wasn’t sure he got all of the pitch he smacked out of the park on Wednesday, as evidenced by his sprint out of the box. It took him just over eight seconds to reach second base, and he trailed A.J. Pierzynski, who was on base, by just feet as they neared home plate.
“I don’t think I’m a home run hitter, so any time I hit it, I’m going to take off sprinting,” Betts said. “When I touched home plate I kind of startled A.J. because as soon as he turned around, I was right there. It all happened so fast, I got around the bases so fast that it didn’t really hit me until I was in the dugout and I got to kind of sit and think, ‘I got my first one.’ ”
Betts added a single to third base, a slow roller that Mike Olt couldn’t barehand. He was able to go from first to third on a single to right off the bat of Brock Holt two batters later. It was Betts’ first multi-hit game.
“There’s a lot of athleticism there. He gets a pitch up in the strike zone and there’s plenty of bat speed,” manager John Farrell said: “It was good to see it click for him here tonight. Couple of base hits, hopefully this gives him a little bit of a chance to take a little bit of a deep breath and recognize that he manages his at-bats very well.”
Betts is now 3-for-15 with a walk and a strikeout through four games. His plate discipline and patience hasn’t disappeared even if he’s not getting on base the way he had in the minors; he’s still seeing an average of four pitches per at-bat.
“I’ve felt good,” Betts said. “I think I’ve put together some good at-bats with nothing to show for it.”
But the pressure hasn’t seemed to faze the rookie.
“I mean it’s the same game essentially but yeah, it feels a little different knowing you have a Red Sox jersey on here at Fenway,” Betts said. “But you’ve got to kind of get past that and understand it is the same game.”
Though the results have yet to match the numbers that rocketed him to the majors, Betts is showing flashes of why the Red Sox decided he could have an impact on the big league club.
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