Multiple times since Mookie Betts was acquired from Boston, some form of the adage “how Mookie goes, so go the Dodgers” has been stressed. It was apparent again throughout the five-game National League Division Series against the Giants.
The culmination came in Game 5 on Thursday, when Betts singled four times, stole a base, and scored the game’s first run.
“This is when the stars are stars, and he’s a superstar,” manager Dave Roberts told reporters in San Francisco. “He had great at-bats. He’s played great defense for us. He set the table. He competed. And when a night that other guys didn’t swing the bat well, he kept turning the lineup over, creating havoc and stress.”
Logan Webb was dominant in two NLDS starts against the Dodgers, allowing only one run in 14⅔ innings with 17 strikeouts. Webb only allowed nine hits, and Betts had five of them, including three singles in Game 5.
“Just trying to do my part and get on base, really. Just trying to scratch a run across,” Betts said. “Finally we did, and late in the game, once we were able to get him out, I can’t say it got any easier, but I think everybody kind of was like, finally, you know. And so that was good.”
Most hits in best-of-five series, Dodgers
|Justin Turner||2015 NLDS||Mets||5||10|
|Mookie Betts||2021 NLDS||Giants||5||9|
|Hanley Ramirez||2013 NLDS||Braves||4||8|
|Yasiel Puig||2013 NLDS||Braves||4||8|
|Jeff Kent||2006 NLDS||Mets||3||8|
Betts is the fifth Dodger to have at least four hits in a potential clinching postseason game, a list that includes Will Smith’s five-hit game to finish off a three-game sweep of San Diego in the 2020 NLDS. Betts is the only one to do it in a winner-take-all game.
Game 5 wasn’t the only impactful game for Betts. He had nine hits in 20 at-bats during the series, driving in four runs. He hit one of the Dodgers’ three home runs in the NLDS, and stole two of LA’s three bases.
Using Win Probability Added, Baseball Reference box scores show the top five plays of each game, just above the granular play-by-play log. Betts was involved in a top-three play in each of the last four games.
One batter after Julio Urías delivered an RBI single in the second inning for the Dodgers’ first run of the series, Betts followed with an RBI single of his own for a 2-0 lead.
Betts’ single added nine percent to the Dodgers’ win probability, the third-largest swing in odds of the game.
Betts also had a signature defensive play in the sixth inning, cutting down Wilmer Flores at third base with a fantastic throw from right field, halting a Giants rally that might have pulled them even closer in the game.
“When you can kind of take the wind out of their sail on a play like that, it just kind of resets things,” Roberts said after the game. “That was a big play.”
Betts also had the third-largest swing in win probability in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, only for something that happened after he put the ball in play.
Trailing 1-0 with runners on first and second with two outs in the seventh inning, Betts scorched a 100.4-mph line drive that seemed ticketed for left field to likely score the tying run.
Only shortstop Brandon Crawford had other ideas, with a fantastic leaping grab to end the inning and preserve the Giants’ final lead of the series. This catch was another nine-percent jump in win probability.
It was the Dodgers’ best scoring opportunity of a game in which they scored zero runs. They did that twice in a five-game series, but still managed to escape.
With their backs against the wall, the Dodgers scored early and threatened constantly, but the game was still tight despite a bevy of chances. Betts helped change that in the fourth inning, hitting an opposite-field home run off Jarlin Garcia, giving the Dodgers a 4-0 lead and some breathing room for the rest of the game. This was a 10-percent jump in the Dodgers’ win probability, the second-biggest mover of the night.
Roberts called this home run the best swing he’s seen from Betts.
“I think it was just the balance throughout the swing, the synced up mechanics, getting a pitch to his nitro zone. Really to go backside like that is really hard to do and you’ve got to leverage a baseball the right way,” Roberts said Wednesday via Zoom. “I just think overall it was picturesque.”
The Dodgers survived this series against a 107-win Giants team as much as anything, scratching and clawing for two runs in the series finale that somehow was enough thanks to a dominant pitching staff that only allowed 10 runs during the entire NLDS.
Betts wasn’t at the plate for his big play in Game 5, but he was on the bases, in the sixth inning after his third hit of the game against an otherwise dominant Webb. Betts stole second base with Corey Seager at the plate — Betts’ second steal of the series — then scored two pitches later on a Seager double. The 1-0 lead was a 15-percent jump in win probability for the Dodgers, the third-largest jump of the game.
Betts played six years in Boston, and played in one postseason series against New York. Now in his second year in Los Angeles, and after a playoff series against San Francisco, Betts was uniquely qualified to compare the Dodgers-Giants rivalry to Red Sox-Yankees.
“That Yankees-Red Sox, man, that’s mean. That’s different,” Betts told reporters Thursday in San Francisco. “Maybe the different coasts, East Coast people are different than West Coast. I don’t know. But it’s definitely a lot of fun to be a part of a rivalry like this and just being a part of it. being able to contribute in it is just fun.”