Victor Gonzalez was credited with the save in the Dodgers’ latest win, Saturday night’s 2-0 triumph over the Padres in San Diego, but a case could be made that the save was actually made by Mookie Betts.
With the tying runs in scoring position and two outs in the ninth, Tommy Pham lined a ball 98.6 mph to right center field, where Betts made a diving catch to end the game.
MARKUS LYNN BETTS. pic.twitter.com/jeU6UnOBc9— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 18, 2021
“Diving play! A walk-off catch. Mookie magic,” said Joe Davis on his excellent SportsNet LA call, which sounded just as good as if he was calling it from Petco Park instead of off a monitor from Dodger Stadium.
“I just kind of blacked out,” Betts told Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA after the game. “I just knew when the ball went in the air, I had to catch it, and I did.”
“That play is really hard to make. Coming across, not coming in or back. For him to be able to do that, it’s just another reason why Mookie’s the best,” said Clayton Kershaw, who earned his third straight win. “That’s a big catch, because extra innings would have been tough for us.”
Dave Roberts said when he saw the ball of Pham’s bat, he too thought the game was headed for extra innings.
Kenley Jansen and Corey Knebel weren’t available for the Dodgers on Saturday. Neither were David Price nor Dennis Santana after each pitching the previous two nights. Blake Treinen and Victor Gonzalez combined for the final six outs, and in doing so became the first Dodgers to pitch three times in a four-day span this season. The taxed bullpen added Alex Vesia on Saturday, and could potentially add Brusdar Graterol on Sunday, but there were fewer available options than usual for the Dodgers in the middle game of the series.
“Mookie’s reaction time, his line to the baseball. A heck of an athletic play,” Roberts said. “Just like everybody else out there, these guys pick each other up, and made a heck of a play.”
The heck of a play is becoming routine for Betts, who won his fifth straight Gold Glove Award last season for his work in right field, and made highlight catches in each of the final three games of the NLCS, helping the Dodgers overcome a 3-1 series deficit against Atlanta.
The catch on Saturday was even more difficult, because of the angle and how quickly Betts got to the play. Per Baseball Savant, based on league batted-ball data, Pham’s drive had an expected batting average of .560.
Roberts mentioned the 10-percent catch probability noted by Sarah Langs from MLB.com:
10% catch probability, a 5-star play ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) April 18, 2021
Distance needed: 52 ft
Opportunity time: 3.3 seconds
WHAT A PLAY https://t.co/nurjJrfUjA
“It saved the game, obviously,” said Justin Turner, whose home run made sure that the runners on base in the ninth were only the tying runs, and not potentially the winning run. “He’s a guy that can change the game and impact the game in so many different ways, whether it’s offensively, base running, or with that catch that ended the game, with his glove.”
On the mend
A.J. Pollock, who played the final two outs on defense in left field after coming in on a double switch, is expected to start on Sunday, after dealing with groin tightness over the previous three days. The Dodgers will wait and see how Gavin Lux — who was scratched Thursday with right wrist soreness — feels Sunday morning before deciding if he might start. Lux has been limited to one pinch-running appearance in the last three games.