Hitting a baseball is hard. So, Alex Cora came to the Boston Red Sox with a plan to simplify the team’s approach.
“Hunting pitches that you can do damage with. The first pitch or a 2-0 pitch,” Cora said in November during his first press conference as Red Sox manager. “Sometimes the first pitch available is the one that you can do damage on, so we’re going to have guys ready to do damage early in the count.”
Put another way: Don’t worry about taking pitches and working the count. Find the first pitch you can drive, and swing like hell.
Mookie Betts did just that Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
The All-Star outfielder smacked three home runs off the Los Angeles Angels to power the Red Sox to 10-1 win over the hottest team in baseball outside Boston.
Betts’ first jack came on a full count off Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani. His next two blasts? On the second pitch and first pitch of his at-bats, respectively.
That’s not to say Betts was overaggressive — he worked two walks Tuesday and laid off some nasty offspeed offerings from Ohtani. But Cora’s missive to jump at the first juicy pitch appears to be benefiting Betts during his hot start.
Through 15 games this season, Betts is batting .550 (11-for-20) when putting the ball in play within the first three pitches of an at-bat. He isn’t just thriving ahead in counts, either: Betts is a perfect 4-for-4 combined on 0-1 and 0-2 counts.
That opportunistic success has translated to a major league-leading .389 batting average for the 25-year-old, who also ranks sixth in the American League with 13 RBIs — five of which he’s tallied on the first, second or third pitch of an at-bat.
And aside from his full-count shot off Ohtani, Betts has smacked all of his homers this season on the fourth pitch or earlier.
Of course, many hitters find success early in counts, as the fact they’re swinging usually means they’ve found a good pitch to drive. But it appears Cora’s philosophy has empowered Betts and the Red Sox to take those chances rather than try to work counts, which so far has led to fewer walks and more home runs.
“Let’s be honest, (the offense) had a great game plan, and they executed,” Cora said Tuesday night after Boston’s 10-run outburst, via MLB.com.
Just like Cora drew it up.
Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images
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