BOSTON — “It’s alive!”
As the Red Sox offense Frankenstein’d to life in July, a familiar spark plug has been once again providing the electricity. Mookie Betts is reverting to MVP form, and the Sox are reaping the rewards.
Boston has scored 84 runs scored this month, tops in the American League entering Thursday night, and Betts accounted for 20 of them, by far the most of any player in the majors.
It’s been a season-long struggle for Betts to find his swing, but finally clicking, he’s starting to terrorize pitchers once more.
“Everything I’ve tried is what not to do,” Betts said. “So I’ve finally found something that’s worked for a little while... It’s just one of those things that kind of creeps in without you thinking about it, little bad habits.”
Fortunately for the Red Sox, Betts has broken them.
In the midst of a 10-game hitting streak, the right fielder is batting .463 (19 for 41) with seven extra-base hits and six walks. They haven’t been cheap hits either, most rocketed off Betts’ bat.
“I’ve seen a lot of line drives in the left-center gap and off the wall,” Alex Cora said. “It seems like he’s hit more balls off the wall the last two weeks or whatever than the first two months of the season.”
Betts did it all in Thursday’s 5-0 win over the Jays, putting together a 2-for-3 afternoon with a homer, a walk, and two runs scored. He lone out, a flyball to right-center, was scalded. Were the wind not blowing in from the deepest part of the park, Betts could have easily had another homer to show for it.
“We know how important he is,” Cora said. “He was the MVP last year, one of the guys who carried the offense. We’ve been saying all long, he’s been disciplined throughout the season. He was fighting his swing in the early part, found it a little bit, finding it again.
“He’s in a good spot,” Cora continued. “We never doubted him controlling the zone. We talked about that. Now that his swing is where he wants it, he becomes that dangerous.”
He’s not alone in becoming that dangerous, as the entire top third of the Red Sox lineup is a minefield right now. With Betts followed by Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts, the runs are coming in bunches. Betts sets the table, and Devers and Bogaerts clear the plate.
“I have one job and it’s just to get on base and let (Devers) take care of the rest,” Betts said. “So it makes my job a little easier. Obviously I may get a couple more pitches to hit because nobody wants to face him.”
Boston has played 13 games this month, and Betts has crossed home plate in every one, tying Ted Williams for the most consecutive games with a run scored in franchise history.
It’s not a coincidence the Sox are 9-4 in those games.
Even when Betts isn’t hitting his ceiling, he’s pretty darn impressive. As he’s battled through swing issues, he still earned an invitation to the All-Star Game and his OPS was Top 20 in the majors.
His teammates always believed in him, but finally firing on all cylinders, Betts is helping to lift the Red Sox offense to another level.
“Mookie’s always been the same Mookie,” Chris Sale said. “I couldn’t imagine what it’s like winning MVP and having to show up the next year and having to do it again. We all know what he’s capable of. He’s been unbelievable for us the entire year. I know he’s not hitting .370 like he was last year but I don’t think we need him to. I think he’s starting to come around and you saw it (against the Blue Jays).”
Chris Mason is a Red Sox beat writer for The Gloucester Times and CNHI Sports Boston. Email him at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @ByChrisMason