BOSTON — Mookie Betts has become one of the biggest Oriole killers there is in the game, and the Orioles haven’t been too successful keeping the Boston Red Sox right fielder off the bases halfway into their four-game series at Fenway Park.
But when Betts had two late-inning opportunities to alter to the momentum of Friday night’s game, the Orioles bullpen came through to preserve a 7-4 win.
With hits in his first three at-bats against Alex Cobb on Friday – a homer and two doubles – Betts had reached base in seven of his first eight plate appearances of the series.
“Just seems like he’s on everything,” Cobb said of Betts. “You don’t seem like you can trick in any aspect of the game, whether it’s location, in or out, changing speeds on him. He’s just locked in, and he’s where every ballplayer strives to get to — feeling like you have all the power in the world at the plate. He’s got more ability than anybody who puts on a uniform in this league. He’s a dangerous combination right now.”
There are few players who have had more success against the Orioles than Betts since he broke into the majors in 2014. He enters Saturday a .290 career hitter against the Orioles and has 39 RBIs in 67 career games against them. His 13 career homers against Baltimore are his most against any opponent.
And in the seventh inning of Friday’s game, with the Orioles clinging to a 6-3 lead, Orioles manager Buck Showalter pulled Cobb and turned to Mychal Givens to face Betts with a runner at second base and one out.
Givens got ahead of Betts 0-2, but had to grind through a nine-pitch at-bat. Givens pounded Betts with mid-90s fastballs, including one that was yanked down the left-field line and just went just feet wide of the foul pole.
On the ninth pitch, Givens got Betts to ground out to third. The right-hander walked Andrew Benintendi on four pitches, but then induced a flyout from Hanley Ramírez to end the inning.
Betts came to the plate in a crucial situation again in the eighth, with the potential go-ahead run on first with the bases loaded and two outs.
Right-hander Brad Brach was struggling with his control, having just walked pinch hitter Mitch Moreland to load the bases. But he bore down on Betts, getting ahead of him 0-2 on two mid-90s fastballs, then two pitches later inducing a harmless popup to first to end the inning and Boston’s best opportunity to win late.
“We kind of painted ourselves in that situation,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Got to figure he’s due to make an out somewhere along the way. He’s not just picking on us. You see what he’s doing all over the league. It’s very much like what Manny’s doing.”
Betts and Manny Machado are among the American League leaders in nearly every offensive category, including batting average, home runs, multihit games, hits, total bases, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and extra-base hits. Machado also had three hits Friday – two doubles and a key two-run single – getting the best of Betts on this day by getting the win.
“He’s a great player,” Machado said of Betts. “He’s going to go out there and he’s giving us tough at-bats and he’s getting on base, doing things for his ballclub like I’m doing for mine. It’s definitely fun to watch him doing his thing. We’re just playing baseball. We’re out there having fun. I know he is, we are on this side as well. Definitely when we’re winning, it makes it a lot better.”