Thursday, July 10, 2014
Betts' speed sparks Boston's comeback win
By Kyle Brasseur | Special to ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- It was only a matter of time until the Red Sox got their first look at Mookie Betts' greatest weapon.
The power he showed against the Cubs a week ago, the poise he demonstrated in his major league debut at Yankee Stadium. Those all take a back seat to Betts' speed, a tool with enough behind it to impact a game in a moment's notice.
Mookie Betts slides into second base with a rare infield double.
With Boston held scoreless by White Sox ace Chris Sale for seven innings, Betts legged out an infield double to lead off what would become a three-run eighth inning for the Red Sox along the way to their 5-4 comeback victory over Chicago. Betts' speed once again played a factor in the ninth, with the rookie scoring the game-tying run after being hit by a pitch.
"That's probably my best attribute," Betts said. "It plays a big part in range, going to get balls in the outfield, being able to beat out infield hits. Being able to do what I did today."
After working an 11-pitch at-bat to tally his first career double on a wall ball off Sale in the fifth inning, Betts took a more aggressive approach into his next appearance in the eighth. The 21-year-old watched a 93 mph fastball over the plate for a strike before pulling a changeup to the right of a ranging Alexei Ramirez at short. Ramirez fielded the ball on the run, then was unable to get enough on the throw to beat Betts at first.
Settling for an infield single wasn't enough for Betts, however. Alertly realizing that second was open for the taking with Ramirez off the bag and Chicago second baseman Gordon Beckham backing up Jose Abreu at first in case of an errant throw, Betts took off for second. Abreu's throw back to a racing Ramirez was off the mark as Betts was able to slide in safely and take advantage of the mental lapse.
"[Manager John Farrell] says be aggressive the same way I've been my whole career," Betts said. "I just saw the second baseman going to back up and I knew the shortstop had to come in on it so second base had to have been open. Just took a gamble and went."
Although Betts claims the instance wasn't the first infield double of his professional career, several of his teammates marveled at the rookie's rare feat.
"I don't think that I have [seen an infield double]," Brock Holt said. "Pretty impressive for him to beat that ball out."
"I wish I was that fast -- that would be nice," Daniel Nava said. "You clearly hear the adage [speed] doesn't slump and it makes up for a lot. I think we've been missing out on a lot of speed this year and it certainly came up big right there."
Betts' wheels once again came up big in the ninth once he reached base after getting hit by a Javy Guerra fastball. Nava pinch-hit for catcher Christian Vazquez, lining a double off the wall in left-center to score Betts from first with the tying run.
"I knew they weren't going to catch it so I made sure I put it into extra gear and I made it," Betts said.
In all, Betts ended the day 2-for-3 with two doubles, his first career game with multiple extra-base hits. On top of that, his two key runs scored late in the game stood out to his manager in the grand scheme of an exciting walk-off win.
"When you look back over the last couple of innings, Mookie Betts kind of stands out," Farrell said. "Obviously he trusts his speed."