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Red Sox 4, Blue Jays 3: The uniqueness of Mookie Betts

Rob Bradford
April 26, 2018 - 1:36 am

TORONTO -- It would have been easy for J.D. Martinez to say he's never played with anybody like Mookie Betts. Not many have.

Betts is among the most electric talents in Major League Baseball, serving as perhaps the best offensive-defensive combination in the game today. It's not hyperbole. It's fact.

So when Martinez was asked how unique Betts was after the Red Sox' right fielder notched yet another home run to leadoff the first inning, then adding another to give him six homers in his last seven games, the answer would seem to be obvious. But it wasn't. 

Betts has stood out for his newest teammate in a way that stretches well beyond numbers and highlights. As good as he is, the 25-year-old actually gives off a powerful impression that he wants to get better.

"That’s the one thing I love about him," Martinez told after the Red Sox' 4-3 win over the Blue Jays. (For a complete recap, click here.) "I was talking to Varitek today about him. I’m like, ‘Dude, I love the kid because he’s so hungry for information.’ He’s always in my ear. ‘Why did I miss that ball? What do you think about of this? What do you think about that? How should I try and hit that? Have you seen my BP?’ Always asking me stuff. Always trying to learn. It just reminds me a lot of myself. I can relate a lot to it. Some people are like, ‘If he can just stay out of his own mind and let his talent work …’ I’m like, if you have that much talent and a mind like that, all you can do is get better because you care."

The two have hit it off for all the reasons a baseball purist would hope for: They like talking hitting, and getting better it.

"Mookie is one of those guys that goes out there and he wants to learn," Martinez said. "I love it because he gets caught up in the process instead of the results. That’s what I tell him, ‘Get caught up in the process. If you’re working on something then do it.’ Obviously you want hits, but the process is something you can control."

"I think just learning, a lot of learning with the new hitting guys and J.D.," said Betts when asked about if he feels his game has been taken to another level. "And just putting things together and actually how to use my strength instead of just going off ability. I use my ability obviously too but not just that, adding some strength to that."

However Betts has reached this point, it's probably a pretty good path.

After his two-home run night -- the second giving the Red Sox the lead for good in the seventh inning -- Betts is sitting with a .350 batting average and 1.192 OPS to go along with eight home runs. 

But, again, there is something different about Betts. It's something Martinez has noticed and relished. Something that, as the designated hitter notes, isn't the norm for players of Betts' caliber.

"As far as talent-wise and those who are good and really want to know the information, yeah," said Martinez when asked if Betts stood out from other players he has been teammates with. "I would say there are a lot of great players who already have their information. They have their ways of doing it. They just go out there and play and are great. I learn from them just by watching them.

"We talk hitting and I get his perspective on it. It’s cool. I kind of like the way he thinks about some stuff sometimes. It’s different. I like different because it kind of opens your mind. Not having.a know-it-all-type deal. I like information, so bouncing ideas off of him has been good."

There hasn't been much that isn't good in regards to Betts. That's a reality that we got our daily reminder of while him almost single-handedly end the Red Sox' three-game losing streak.

"They’re special. Like the [Mike] Trouts or [Jose] Altuves, the more at-bats they get, the better you feel about it," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Right away, he hits the ball out of the ballpark and you start thinking, special night for him. I’m glad that he’s on my team."

Eduardo Rodriguez pitched well in allowing three runs over 6 2/3 innings. The lefty starter went to his slider/cutter (30) and changeup (29) much more than usual while turning in a season-high 106 pitches, which included back-to-back six-pitch innings.

But after the game Toronto's Yangervis Solarte, who homered off Rodriguez, wasn't ready to give Rodriguez too much credit.

"I think he got lucky a couple of times and we didn't take advantage of it," Solarte said. "I think we made the adjustment a little bit. But I think he got lucky more than us getting beat."