Mookie Betts puts on a show, survives a scare as streaking Dodgers beat Phillies

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The Dodgers' Mookie Betts reacts after homering against the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning May 21, 2022.
Mookie Betts celebrates after hitting a solo homer in the third inning at Philadelphia. Betts had three hits, a walk, three RBIs and a key outfield assist in the Dodgers' 7-4 win — their seventh straight. (Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

There was a solo home run to left and two-run double to center. A rally-extending walk and game-saving outfield assist.

Even when Mookie Betts tumbled on Saturday night — literally crashing into the dirt while rounding second base in the fifth inning — the Dodgers rejoiced, breathing a sigh of relief after their star right fielder stayed in the game despite initially clutching his left arm in pain.

“That was scary,” manager Dave Roberts said.

The rest of Betts’ performance was anything but.

On a night the former MVP could do almost no wrong, the Dodgers overcame an early three-run deficit to beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4, securing their seventh-straight win in front of 32,068 at Citizens Bank Park.

Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel, left, greets catcher Will Smith after L.A.'s victory May 21, 2022.
Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel, left, greets catcher Will Smith after L.A. closed out the victory. (Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

Betts led the way at the plate, going three for four with a walk and three RBIs.

He produced a momentum swing on defense, throwing out a runner at home to keep the score tied in the seventh inning.

And he provided a constant spark to help the Dodgers, who trailed 4-1 after the fourth inning on a night they used nothing but bullpen pitchers, match their season-long winning streak and clinch a series win in Philadelphia.

“He’s just playing elite baseball right now,” Roberts said of Betts, who also singled to fall a triple shy of the cycle and is batting .316 in May with 10 extra-base hits in his last nine games. “And we need every bit of it.”

There was a brief moment when it looked like Betts’ big night would suffer a painful early end.

With the Dodgers (27-12) still trailing by three runs in the fifth — Betts had hit his ninth homer of the season in the third inning, but spot starter Mitch White and reliever David Price gave up four combined runs through four — Betts lined a two-run double into left-center field.

As he rounded second base, Betts had his gaze fixed toward the outfield, watching as the ball bounced away from Phillies center fielder Odúbel Herrera.

Betts immediately tried accelerating toward third base but lost his balance and landed hard on his side. He broke his fall with his left arm, but then grimaced while clutching at his elbow and wrist as he scrambled back to second.

For several moments, Betts writhed on the ground in pain. Roberts came running out of the duogut. A trainer followed closely behind.

“I thought it was his wrist originally,” Roberts said.

Instead, it was a stinger in Betts shoulder, making his arm go numb for a couple of moments.

“It was weird,” Betts said. “Freak accident.”

But after stretching out his arm, sensation soon returned. Betts popped back up to his feet and stayed in the game.

The Dodgers’ comeback was just getting underway.

Phillies starter Aaron Nola looks down as the Dodgers' Will Smith, back right, rounds the bases after homering May 21, 2022.
Phillies starter Aaron Nola looks down as the Dodgers' Will Smith, back right, rounds the bases after tying the score with a sixth-inning homer. (Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

Will Smith tied the score in the sixth inning, hitting a solo run home to right field that chased Phillies starter Aaron Nola from the game.

While the Dodgers then missed a couple prime chances to take the lead against the Phillies bullpen — leaving the bases loaded later in the sixth and squandering another opportunity after Betts, in his one real mistake Saturday, was picked off in the seventh — the score remained tied thanks to Betts’ heroics on defense.

The Phillies (18-22) loaded the bases in the seventh on a walk, a hit batter and puzzling defensive decision by Smith, who had Herrera seemingly caught in a rundown between third and home but held onto the ball until everyone was safe.

Then, with one out, Alec Bohm laced a dipping line drive toward Betts in right.

Betts charged on the ball and made a shoestring catch, then came up firing as Herrera tagged and tried to score. The throw was perfect. Herrera’s headfirst slide never had a chance.

The Dodgers' Austin Barnes is greeted by Mookie Betts after Barnes scored the go-ahead run on Gavin Lux's single.
The Dodgers' Austin Barnes is greeted by Mookie Betts after Barnes scored the go-ahead run on Gavin Lux's eighth-inning single. (Chris Szagola / Associated Press)

“I figured he was going to take a chance,” Betts said. “So I was ready for it.”

Added Roberts: “To make that play was a game-changer. It just kind of gave the momentum back to us.”

After Austin Barnes added insurance with a solo home run in the ninth, the Dodgers’ bullpen put the finishing touches on the game.

The group combined for five scoreless innings to end the contest, including two perfect innings from Brusdar Graterol, 1⅓ scorelss innings from Daniel Hudson and closer Craig Kimbrel’s ninth save.

“That bond of those nine guys in the ‘pen is tight,” Roberts said. “And so they're doing a good job of picking each other up.”

Still, it was Betts who provided the biggest lift, keeping the Dodgers on a roll with his latest dazzling display.

“It’s one of those things — as he goes, we go,” Roberts said. “It was really fun to watch.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.