A lot happened in the 16 months since Mookie Betts was acquired by the Dodgers, who snapped a 32-year title drought in the superstar’s first season with the team. But in nearly a year and a half since first joining the team, Tuesday was the first time Betts got to play as a Dodger in front of a full Dodger Stadium.
Betts’ seventh-inning home run off Ranger Suárez broke a tie and delivered the Dodgers what became a 5-3 win over the Phillies on what was dubbed re-opening day in front of 52,078 at Dodger Stadium.
“It was a great feeling knowing they’re finally cheering on my behalf, since 2018,” Betts said. “I’m just happy and thankful that we finally got to this day.”
By now, Betts is used to the ins and outs of Dodger Stadium, especially the home clubhouse and dugout. Tuesday was his 59th home game played at the stadium. Twenty-nine of those came last year, in front of no fans except of the cardboard variety.
In the Dodgers’ first 33 home dates of 2021 they averaged 15,987 fans, topping out at 20,220 last Friday against Texas. But Tuesday marked an official lifting of COVID-19 restrictions throughout the state of California, and the first time stadiums could open to full capacity.
Tuesday’s crowd was the most in a game at Dodger Stadium involving Betts since Game 5 of the 2018 World Series. Betts homered that night too, in front of 54,367 that watched the Red Sox become the second team in as many years not named the Dodgers win a championship at Chavez Ravine.
“Our fans, as far as full capacity, haven’t had a chance to watch him in person for quite some time. I think you can say most fans haven’t had that chance,” manager Dave Roberts said. “For them to get here, and you hope that your superstar player performs, and you get a go-ahead homer. It was a big jolt. The club felt it, the dugout felt it, the fans felt it.”
In addition to the home run in the seventh, Betts also drove home an insurance run in the eighth with an RBI single, one of three hits on the night.
On June 6 in Atlanta, Betts was showing signs of coming out of a frustrating slump, but hadn’t hit a home run in over two weeks. Roberts said, “He’s taking really good swings, taking really good at-bats. There’ll be some homers coming soon.”
Though Betts didn’t homer in the series finale in Atlanta, he’s homered once in each of the Dodgers’ three series since. On the season he’s up to .258/.371/.462, with a 135 wRC+ that nearly matches his career 136 wRC+.
Not that Betts is satisfied with his swing just yet.
“Maybe in a month or so we can kind of take a look back, but right now it’s just one day at a time,” Betts said. “All it takes is one pitch or one swing, but it’s been so in and out, it’s been kind of tough.”
On the mound
It was a mixed bag on Tuesday for Julio Urías, who wasn’t exactly helped by a Dodgers defense that made three errors on the night. But he was also pulled during a sixth-inning rally in a tie game. “I thought he was at the end of his rope,” Roberts said.
But Urías also doubled home a run in the fourth inning, a fifth straight game with a run batted in for the left-hander. It’s tied for the longest RBI streak by a pitcher in Dodgers history, matching Don Drysdale in 1958.
Among all major league hitters this year, Urías and A’s second baseman Elvis Andrus have the longest active RBI streaks.
“I was going after that first pitch,” Urías said. “Luckily, I got it, and put a good swing on it.”
Home runs: Mookie Betts (8); Andrew McCutchen (11)
WP — Joe Kelly (2-0): 1 IP, 1 strikeout
LP — Ranger Suárez (2-1): 1⅓ IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 walks, 1 strikeout
Sv — Blake Treinen (3): 1 IP, 1 strikeout
Clayton Kershaw starts the final game of the homestand on Wednesday night (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network). The Phillies turn to Zack Wheeler, who has a 1.39 ERA and 71 strikeouts in his last seven starts.