ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Mookie Betts slid headfirst across home plate, then popped up and did a double pump with his right fist. An inning later, he got to trot around the bases after going deep.
That big commitment to Betts is already paying off for the Los Angeles Dodgers this postseason.
After run-saving catches in three consecutive potential elimination games to get the Dodgers this far, Betts put his speed, instincts and power on display in Game 1 of the World Series. There was a Ruth-like journey around the bases to score — and that was before his solo homer in an 8-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
Betts led off the Dodgers fifth with a walk and stole second base. After NL Championship Series MVP Corey Seagar drew a walk behind him, they pulled off a double steal. Then, with the Rays infield playing in, Max Muncy hit a bouncer to first baseman Yandy Diaz, who threw on the run after Betts broke quickly for the plate. He slid past the attempted tag for a 3-1 lead.
The only other player with a walk and multiple stolen bases in an inning during a World Series game was Babe Ruth in 1921.
When Betts led off the sixth with an opposite-field homer to right to make it 7-1, that was only his second career postseason homer — the other came in the 2018 World Series for Boston in a five-game series win over the Dodgers.
Los Angeles acquired the four-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove winner from the Red Sox in February, even agreeing to pay Boston $48 million over three years as part of the deal, which also brought the Dodgers left-hander David Price, who opted out of playing this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Already signed to a $27 million, one-year deal that would have made the star right fielder eligible for free agency this offseason, the 28-year-old Betts agreed in July to a $365 million, 12-year contract that includes a $65 million signing bonus guaranteed against work stoppages and shortened seasons such as this one.
In the clinching Game 7 of the National League Championship Series two nights earlier against the Atlanta Braves, when the Dodgers trailed 3-2 in the fifth inning, Betts sprinted 64 feet to the wall and jumped with his glove above the top of the 8-foot wall to rob leading NL MVP contender Freddie Freeman of a home run. The Dodgers went on to win that game 4-3.
There was also an impressive catch in the 3-1 win in Game 6 when he robbed Marcell Ozuna of extra bases to end the fifth inning with a runner on base. Betts had a running, shoestring grab the game before that to start a double play that took an Atlanta run off the scoreboard.
For all he's doing for the Dodgers this postseason, they're not even the only ones benefiting. Betts' initial stolen base against the Rays secured everyone in the nation a free taco as part of Taco Bell’s annual “Steal a Base, Steal a Taco” promotion.
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