LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mookie Betts hit three home runs Thursday night – for the sixth time in his career.
Now nobody’s done it more often.
Betts launched half of the season-high six long balls socked by the Los Angeles Dodgers during an 11-2 rout of the San Diego Padres. His sixth three-homer game matched the major league mark shared by Sammy Sosa and Hall of Famer Johnny Mize.
Betts accomplished the feat in 813 career games. Sosa needed 2,364, and Mize did it in 1,884.
”I just think it’s pretty cool, but it’s not as important as the rings,” Betts said.
The four-time All-Star went 4 for 4 with five RBIs and was hit by a pitch in the leadoff spot, where manager Dave Roberts has been reluctant to lock him in.
However, with Corey Seager back in the lineup after injury, Roberts turned to Betts at the top.
”I’ve been doing it my whole life so I think I’m just comfortable there,” Betts said. ”It’s just one of those things where you only lead off once, but I enjoy getting things started and creating havoc on the basepaths.”
Betts signed one of the richest contracts in baseball history last month, agreeing to a $365 million, 12-year deal on the eve of opening day, and has mostly batted second in this pandemic-shortened season. The 2018 AL MVP said when he was acquired from Boston in a blockbuster trade last offseason that he thought he’d be hitting leadoff with his new team.
”I’m definitely here to do whatever is best for the team,” said Betts, who talked to Roberts again recently about the leadoff spot. ”I think he’s just trying to find a comfort in the lineup in general.”
Roberts knew the kind of special player the Dodgers landed in Betts, although the 5-foot-9 right fielder has surprised him in one way.
”I know he hits homers,” the manager said, ”but it’s more power than I expected.”
With a chance to tie the big league record of four home runs in one game, Betts reached on an infield single in the seventh.
When Betts wasn’t chasing down balls in the outfield or rocketing them into the empty stands, he was on the bench talking hitting with his teammates.
”He’s just very unselfish,” Roberts said.
The National League’s top two home run-hitting teams split the four-game series, with the Dodgers outscoring the Padres 17-2 over the last two.
”We wanted to win this series,” San Diego starter Chris Paddack said. ”I just felt I can do a better job of, I keep saying it, but one of those things is to eliminate the damage. But it just kept going and going and going. Overall tough, tough loss.”
Julio Urias (2-0) gave up consecutive two-out solo homers to Tommy Pham and Eric Hosmer in the first after the Padres failed to homer for the first time in nine games during a 6-0 loss Wednesday night.
The Dodgers answered right back in the bottom of the inning to tie it 2-all. Betts was hit by a pitch and scored on Seager’s two-run shot to right on an 0-2 pitch from Paddack (2-2). Seager returned after missing five games because of lower back discomfort. AJ Pollock added a go-ahead solo homer with two outs.
Los Angeles scored in each of the first five innings. Betts connected on a two-run shot to left field with two outs in the second for a 5-2 lead.
Pollock’s RBI double made it 6-2 in the third.
Austin Barnes and Betts went deep back-to-back in the fourth, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 9-2. Barnes’ two-run shot landed in the left-field pavilion and Betts followed with a solo shot to the same area.
Betts wasn’t finished. He smashed a two-run homer in the fifth for an 11-2 lead.
”He’s impressive,” Seager said.
The Dodgers’ offensive outburst didn’t include reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger, who went 0 for 3 with a strikeout and a walk before being replaced.
Urias allowed two runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out three and walked none.
Paddack gave up six runs and six hits in three innings. He struck out one and walked one.
Padres: INF-OF Jorge Mateo was activated from the 60-day injured list and made his major league debut starting in left field. He was acquired from Oakland on June 30.
Dodgers: LHP Alex Wood (shoulder inflammation) threw a simulated game. He’ll toss a bullpen Saturday and follow up with three innings Tuesday as he builds himself back up. ”I should be ready to contribute here soon,” he said. … C Will Smith was out after leaving the game a night earlier because of neck pain. He’s unlikely to go on the IL, although Barnes started Thursday and will do so again Friday in Anaheim.
Thirteen different Dodgers have homered this season, and every position that has recorded an at-bat has gone deep.
Padres: RHP Dinelson Lamet (2-0, 1.61 ERA) starts Friday’s opener at Arizona. He struck out eight in five innings against the Diamondbacks two weeks ago.
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (1-1, 3.60) starts Friday in the opener of a three-game set versus the Angels in Anaheim. He’s 6-2 with a 2.56 ERA against them.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports