Mookie Betts

Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports

Mookie Betts did something in 2-homer game that should terrify rival pitchers

John Tomase
April 26, 2018 - 11:23 am

Mookie Betts was already terrorizing American League pitchers, but what he did Wednesday night should fill them with dread.

It wasn't just that he hit two home runs in a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. It's where the second one landed.

Betts is a dead-pull hitter and always has been. As a Little Leaguer, he learned to rip the ball to left field because he lacked the size to hit home runs anywhere other than right down the line. He carried that approach all the way to the big leagues.

Of his 86 lifetime homers, 82 of them have been to left or center. Entering Wednesday, only three had gone out to right, and one of them was a Pesky Pole special against Tampa's Chris Archer last September that barely broke 300 feet.

But he added oppo homer No. 4 against Toronto's Danny Barnes, lining a 92 mph fastball on the outside corner over the 328-foot sign in right. It may not have been an Aaron Judgian blast, but it spoke to an evolution in Betts' game that could make him an even more difficult out moving forward.

When Betts has struggled, it has typically been against teams that refuse to enter his power zone with inside fastballs. Pitch him away, make him hit the ball to the deepest part of the park, and trust that the advantage his quick hands give him on inside fastballs will be negated by a lack of bulk.

This season has been different. Betts is locked in, consistently refusing to chase pitches off the plate, which is why he has more walks (12) than strikeouts (11).

Prior to Wednesday, his only other opposite-field homers came on consecutive days during his 2016 homerfest against the Orioles, when he took Dylan Bundy to right for his third homer of one game, and then blasted one to right-center off of Mike Wright -- who had just thrown over his head -- for his second homer of the following evening.

One swing does not a trend make, but if Betts starts doing consistent damage in that direction, good luck to the rest of baseball. He's already hitting .350 with eight homers and an 1.192 OPS out of the leadoff spot, and it appears the ways to attack him are dwindling.

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