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Mookie Betts’ full talents are on display this postseason

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Betts had the winning hit in Game 3, his fourth time reaching base Tuesday

Championship Series - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Three Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Cody Bellinger’s home run got all the headlines, here and just about everywhere else, and for good reason. But the Dodgers don’t win Game 3 of the NLCS without Mookie Betts, who is having a fantastic postseason.

With Chris Taylor on third base and two outs, the game was still tied. Bellinger’s home run got the Dodgers to the top of the hill, but Betts got them over it, with an RBI double.

“It was a big hit, obviously, to tie the game up,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But then to have another base runner out there and to build on that momentum and take the lead, and not let the kind of the momentum that we created subside and make it a new ball game.”

The double was Betts’ second hit of Game 2, and he also walked twice. He has a .500 on-base percentage during the NLCS. It’s been a pattern.

Betts reached base four times in Game 3, and three times in Game 2. He had four hits in the close-out win in Game 5 of the NLDS, a series that had Betts’ imprints all over it.

Twice this postseason Betts has gone hitless, both one-run Dodgers losses. But in the seven other games, Betts has reached base at least twice. On the postseason he’s hitting .412/.475/.529. The bat is there, quite welcome for an offense that was held to three or fewer runs five times in nine games.

But Betts has been a force on the bases as well. He stole second base in the second inning on Tuesday. He stole second and scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning of Game 2 in Atlanta, one of two steals for Betts in that game.

Most Dodgers SB, single postseason

Player Year LA games SB
Player Year LA games SB
Davey Lopes 1981 16 10
Steve Sax 1988 12 6
Mookie Betts 2020 18 6
Mookie Betts 2021 9 5
Source: Baseball Reference

“I think it’s just an element of my game that I can put on display right now,” Betts explained. “It’s not like we’re just slugging and scoring a whole lot of runs, so we have to find ways to manufacture runs. Part of my game is stealing bases, so I’m just doing anything I can to help us win.”

Betts averaged 24 steals during his five full seasons in Boston, including a career-high 30 in his 2018 MVP season, when he also hit 32 home runs. In the pandemic-truncated 2020 season, Betts hit 16 home runs and stole 10 bases, on pace for 43 homers and 27 steals over a 162-game slate.

This year Betts only stole 10 bases, his low for a full season. It was a year compromised by various nagging injuries, most notably a right hip impingement that necessitated two trips to the injured list after the All-Star break.

It was a season Betts himself called frustrating and disappointing multiple times, which gives an idea of his standards since even a relatively-diminished Betts hit .264/.367/.487, a 131 wRC+ with 23 home runs, 4.2 bWAR and 3.9 fWAR. Many players would kill for such frustration.

Now fully heathy, Betts through nine postseason games has five stolen bases, the fourth-most in a single postseason by the Dodgers. Only one behind Betts in 2020, in 18 games.

His 11 steals in 27 games are the third-most in Dodgers postseason history, behind only Davey Lopes (19 steals in 45 games) and Bellinger (12 in 63 games; including three steals this postseason).

The Dodgers have a dynamic Mookie Betts again.