The Dodgers lineup for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, looks a lot like so many of their lineups against right-handed pitching during the regular season.
That includes Mookie Betts at second base, a position he’s played more often than in his usual Gold Glove-winning spot in right field since the All-Star break. Betts’ emergence as a legitimate plus defender at yet another position this season added to his already tremendous value.
Game 1 is Betts’ 56th career postseason game. This will be his first time in the infield, after 485⅔ defensive posteseason innings in the outfield.
Betts at second base opens up the outfield for three left-handed batters, with Jason Heyward playing excellent defense in his own right while taking over right field, David Peralta in left, and stellar rookie James Outman in center.
NLDS Game 1 lineups
|Carroll (L)||RF||Freeman (L)||1B|
|Gurriel Jr.||LF||Heyward (L)||RF|
|Thomas (L)||CF||Peralta (L)||LF|
Not only is Betts and second base and Heyward in right field a fantastic defensive combination — Betts at second rated as plus-17 in Defensive Runs Saved pro-rated over a full season, and Heyward projected to plus-10 in right field — but Heyward has also been resurgent at the plate, hitting .269/.340/.473 with a 121 wRC+, 23 doubles and 15 home runs, the latter matching his total from 2020-22 combined.
The Dodgers are 39-19 (.672) in games when Betts starts at second base and Heyward starts in right field, with the team averaging 5.78 runs per game.
Peralta, on the other hand, has struggled at the plate for a while, hitting .231/.259/.319 with a 54 wRC+ since the All-Star break.
“David’s been scuffling a little bit of late, J-Hey’s turned it up. But I think the sum of those three, four guys [including Outman and shortstop Miguel Rojas] has added a lot of length,” manager Dave Roberts said Friday. “I just think in the postseason it’s just too hard to count on one or two guys, and so we’re going to need those guys to get on base, drive runs in and manufacture and do some things to turn the lineup over.”
Betts turned 31 on Saturday, and this is just the third time the schedule has worked out such that he’s playing on his birthday. He had three hits in seven at-bats with a walk, a stolen base, and a run scored in his other two birthday games, in 2016 and 2020.
Dodgers batters this year have thrived on their birthdays, with 14 hits in 26 at-bats, including six doubles, two home runs, eight RBI, four runs scored, and three walks.