Lightning threatened Kansas City on Friday night, but Mookie Betts brought the thunder in leading the Dodgers to a 9-3 win over the Royals in the series opener at Kauffman Stadium.
Betts officially joined the Home Run Derby field on Thursday, then supplied the power on Friday by reaching base six times, with four run-scoring hits and two walks. It’s the second time in Betts’ career he’s reached base six times in a game, along with August 2, 2018 with Boston.
His first two at-bats were home runs, his third multi-homer game of the season.
Betts led off the game with a 422-foot blast over the left field wall for his ninth leadoff home run this year, already tying the franchise single-year record at the exact halfway point, matching Joc Pederson’s full 2019 campaign. Betts’ five leadoff home runs during June set a Dodgers record for one month, and is tied for the third-most in a month in major league history, per Sarah Langs of MLB.com.
In the third inning, Betts hit one down the line that clanged off the left field foul pole.
Betts later drove in runs with a single and double, plating four runs, giving him 55 RBI through the Dodgers’ first 81 games. Only two players in major league history have driven in at least 100 runs while batting first — Darin Erstad with 100 RBI for the Angels in 2000, and Charlie Blackmon driving in 103 for the Rockies in 2017.
Betts has reached base 13 times in 15 plate appearances in the last three games.
Welcome to the bigs
With Jordan Lyles scratched from his Friday start due to illness, the Royals turned to Alec Marsh for his big league debut. The Dodgers made the 25-year-old rookie right-hander work.
Marsh needed 95 pitches to record 12 outs, and the Dodgers scored in four of the five innings against him. Thirty-seven of those pitches came in the fourth inning alone, when Jason Heyward doubled in between walks to David Peralta and James Outman for one run, then Betts singled home another with two outs in the frame.
Will Smith collected his first triple of the season to lead off the fifth, though it took a little bit to sort things out. It was a fly ball down the right field line that landed on the chalk but was called foul. Smith was already around second, and after replay review correctly determined the ball was fair, umpires awarded him third base.
Smith scored the fifth run of the night against Marsh, continuing a trend. Dating back to 2016, 11 starting pitchers have made major league debuts against the Dodgers, with a 9.50 ERA in 48⅓ innings. Los Angeles has won nine of those 11 games, including each of the last six such games.
That offensive production was enough for Bobby Miller, who worked around some early traffic to pitch into the sixth for the fifth time in seven starts.
Miller allowed single runs in the third and fourth innings, but retired seven in a row to get through two outs in the sixth with nobody on base. But a single by Maikel Garcia followed by a stole base, the third of the night off Miller (all of which led to runs), then a hit batter and another RBI single ended Miller’s night.
The big inning didn’t bite Miller this time, as Caleb Ferguson got a groundball to strand both inherited runners. Ferguson remained to get the first two outs of the seventh inning. He allowed two singles but both were stranded, giving the left-hander seven scoreless innings since his three straight losses in the second week of June, a rare blip in an otherwise solid season on the mound for Ferguson.
Miller struck out four in his outing and got nine groundball outs, including two assists and twice quickly covering first base for a putout, after last Saturday’s lateness on a Jose Altuve bunt single that opened up a big inning for Houston.
Every time the Royals scored on Friday, the Dodgers scored in the very next frame.
Heyward reached base four times himself with three hits and a walk, including a double and drove in a pair. In his last seven games, Heyward has 11 hits in 22 at-bats with four doubles, a home run, and two walks.
Daniel Hudson, who was activated off the injured list before the series opener, pitched in the eighth inning, his first major league game in 371 days. Hudson was eased into a soft landing in his first game back, entering with a six-run advantage. After a leadoff infield single, Hudson retired his final three batters faced for a scoreless frame, with two strikeouts.
Welcome back, Daniel Hudson! pic.twitter.com/gEDwgTHS9G— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 1, 2023
Hudson is the 30th pitcher used by the Dodgers this season. The team record is 39 pitchers used in 2021, but second-most is 31 pitchers, done four times. Again, Friday was the Dodgers’ 81st game of the season.
Home runs: Mookie Betts 2 (22)
WP — Bobby Miller (4-1): 5⅔ IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
LP — Alec Marsh (0-1): 4+ IP, 6 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
Julio Urías will make his first start in 44 days on Saturday (4:15 p.m. PT, Fox) as he returns from a left hamstring strain. Left-hander Daniel Lynch starts for Kansas City.