Mookie Betts sets pace for homer-happy Dodgers in blowout victory over Padres
Mookie Betts flung his pointer finger toward first base coach Clayton McCullough.
Then, for the 33rd time this season, he began a slow trot around the bases.
On a warm Saturday night in which the ball was carrying at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers hit four home runs to dispatch the San Diego Padres in a 12-1 rout.
None was bigger than Betts’ three-run blast in the fourth, which turned the Dodgers’ early three-run lead into an insurmountable six-run edge, and gave Betts a career high in homers, moving into fifth place on the MLB leaderboard with 33 this season.
“I think if you would have asked who was going to lead our team in homers this year, I don’t think Mookie would have been many people’s first choice,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But he’s having a tremendous, MVP-type season.”
Betts nearly began the night with a different type of homer, sending a leadoff line drive to right field in the first inning that was misplayed by Juan Soto, allowing Betts to briefly think about an inside-the-park attempt before he got the stop sign from base coach Dino Ebel at third.
“I didn’t really want to have an inside the park,” Betts joked. “Too long of a run.”
Betts was trotting home moments later, when Trea Turner smacked a two-run homer to left to open the scoring.
After a Will Smith RBI double in the third made it 3-0, Betts doubled the advantage with one swift swing in the fourth.
In an 0-and-1 hole, Betts again showcased his more aggressive approach this season, taking an inside slider from Padres left-hander Sean Manaea and launching it into the left-field pavilion.
Before this season, Betts’ career high for home runs was 32, achieved during his MVP-winning campaign in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox. He also had a 31-homer campaign in 2016, and registered 16 in just 55 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
“He’s not very physical,” Roberts said. “But he’s just such a good hitter that, when you hit it hard consistently, this is what’s happening."
Indeed, Betts’ undersized frame has always belied his subtle pop. It emerged as a surprise attribute during his early years in Boston, and has carried over to his time in Los Angeles, where his 72 homers over the last three seasons are eight more than anyone else with the club.
This year, he is in the thick of the NL home run race, as well, now trailing only Kyle Schwarber (whose 36 are most in the league), Austin Riley (35) and Paul Goldschmidt (34).
“It doesn't surprise me, because obviously I’ve been me, I know what I’ve done my whole life,” Betts said of his power surge. “But I think it’s definitely surprising to most people.”
Betts wasn’t the only one to leave the yard on a 91-degree night at Chavez Ravine.
Trea Turner’s first-inning homer was his 19th of the season, good for third on the team. Smith hit a three-run shot in the sixth, joining Betts as the only other Dodger to reach 20 in 2022.
Justin Turner also added a two-run shot in the fifth, a blast that knocked Manaea out of the game, leaving the Padres left-hander with a 15.63 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers (91-41) this year.
Julio Urías had no such problems with the Padres (74-60), yielding just a run (a homer to Manny Machado) in six strong innings to lower his NL-leading ERA to 2.29.
“When he takes the mound, usually good things happen,” Betts said. “We just got to score some runs, get him some run support and he kind of takes care of the rest.”
In what was the Dodgers’ third-most lopsided win of the year Saturday, that’s exactly what happened.
Blake Treinen returns
Blake Treinen completed his “miracle” return from a partial shoulder capsule tear, tossing a clean seventh inning on only five pitches.
The right-hander hadn’t pitched in a big league game since mid-April. Before the game, he told reporters that because of the ailment, he was close to requiring what would have been season-ending surgery.
However, Treinen’s injury scarred over surprisingly quickly, allowing him to rehab and get back for the final month.
His return Saturday couldn’t have gone much better, as he hit 97 and 98 mph on the radar gun while retiring the side in order.
David Price headed to IL
David Price will be put on the injured list Sunday, Roberts said, after an MRI exam revealed inflammation in the left-hander’s wrist and arm.
Ryan Pepiot will be activated in Price’s place, and serve as the bulk pitcher behind opener Caleb Ferguson in the series finale.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.