Mookie Betts has surpassed a Boston Red Sox legend for the most three-home run games in their career.
The Sox star smacked three dingers in Boston’s 5-4 win over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday, the fourth such time in his career he’s hit three homers in a game. That marker puts him past Ted Williams for the franchise record.
Oh, and he’s only 25-years-old.
As a result, he becomes the first player in Major League Baseball history to reach the milestone before age 26. Furthermore, he became the current MLB home run leader this season with 11.
In many cases, the balls Betts has been taking deep are not just sneaking over the wall, but they are carrying a good distance. On Wednesday, Betts’ first homer was estimated at 452 feet, the longest of his career, while the third was driven deep to straightaway center field.
“Obviously a great performance,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said after the game, as seen on NESN’s Red Sox postgame coverage. “The last one, pitch up in the zone, able to get the hands above it and drill it, that was impressive. He’s doing an outstanding job being ready to hit from the get-go and setting the tempo for the team.”
While it is tough to precisely quantify, some of Betts’ early-season success has to do with the Red Sox’s revamped approach to hitting. Instead of sitting back early in counts, hitters are encouraged to attack pitches they can drive, regardless of the count.
Betts has been doing that, and for Cora, that change in approach is adding to the success.
“I do feel his approach is a lot different than last year,” Cora said. “He’s looking for pitches to do damage with and he’s doing it.”
Here are some other notes from Red Sox-Royals:
— Starter Drew Pomeranz struggled early in the win but settled back in for the later frames. In his third start of the season, the southpaw allowed three runs on eight hits over six innings, walking two and striking out three.
Six of the eight hits came in the first three innings, but in the latter three frames, he pitched much better, something Cora attributed to the fastball improving.
“In the end he found his fastball,” Cora said. “He started using it, elevating the fastball, there were some bad swings after the second inning, third inning. He was able to give us six (innings) and three runs, that’s good enough for us.”
After Pomeranz’s last outing Friday, Cora harped on the 29-year-old’s struggles with his breaking ball — which is near-elite when it’s on — as the main reason he was getting knocked around.
Though it wasn’t always at its best Wednesday, catcher Sandy Leon kept calling for Pomeranz to go back to it so he could try to find the feel.
“It seemed like Sandy was trying to make sure he found it,” Cora said. “There were some better ones down in the zone, 2-0 breaking balls, he tried to find it somehow someway. And it seems like he made strides, but it’s still a work in progress.”
— Craig Kimbrel had a rough night Tuesday, giving up a game-tying home run in the ninth inning to Alex Gordon, blowing the save and forcing extra innings.
But with the Sox clinging to a one-run lead in the ninth again Wednesday, Cora went back to his closer, and he came through. Kimbrel struck out the side in order, earning his eighth save of the season.
“Outstanding,” Cora said of Kimbrel’s performance. “He got Gordon, (Mike) Moustakas, that’s a tough 1-2-3 right there the guys he was facing. So he did an outstanding job with the fastball up in the zone, able to expand with the slider. The last pitch, after a fastball up he went back at it and his velocity looked like it was up, so that’s a good sign for him.”
— Tyler Thornburg made his second rehab appearance in Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday, and though it wasn’t as dominant as his first outing, there still were some promising signs. He pitched 2/3 of an inning, not allowing a hit while walking two and surrendering an unearned run.
According to the PawSox press release, Thornburg’s fastballs nestled around 93-94 mph, while his curveball dipped to 76-78 mph.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images