PITTSBURGH (AP) — Even amid a slow start, Dave Roberts didn’t need a reminder of all the things Mookie Betts can do to help the Los Angeles Dodgers win games.
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Betts provided one anyway.
The star right fielder hit the 25th leadoff home run of his big league career and added a spectacular catch and throw double play as the Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 on Thursday.
The Los Angeles manager predicted last weekend Betts was on the verge of a breakout. Betts certainly looked comfortable in the box while collecting two hits to boost his batting average to .255 while displaying the athleticism that makes him one of the most exciting defenders in the game.
Betts took the third pitch he saw from Mitch Keller (3-7) and sent it into the bullpen beyond the centerfield fence for his sixth homer this season. He then saved a run in the bottom of the second by making a running grab on a sinking line drive by Ka’ai Tom t hen doing a 360-degree turn before firing a one-hop strike to home plate to nail Pittsburgh’s Erik Gonzalez.
“If you’re talking about the degree of difficulty on the catch, the turn, the accuracy and the arm strength, it would be hard to find a play that was tougher,” Roberts said.
Betts shrugged it off, saying it was mostly instinctual.
“I just saw it and I knew I’d try to do everything I can to stay on my feet,” Betts said. “And once I got to a point where I could catch it, I tried to get myself ready to throw and I felt the spin was the easiest way to get some momentum on the ball.”
And halt Pittsburgh’s momentum in the process.
The play helped Julio Urías (9-2) became the first nine-game winner in the majors. Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner had two hits each and Zack McKinstry drove in two runs for Los Angeles. Phil Bickford picked up his first save when the game was called with one out in the top of the eighth inning after a rain delay of 1 hour, 15 minutes.
Urías worked six innings to give Los Angeles’ overtaxed bullpen a little bit of a breather. Los Angeles relievers covered 7 1/3 innings in a rain-delayed 2-1 win on Wednesday night. Urías wasn’t particularly sharp — he allowed at least one base runner in each of the first four innings — but avoided major trouble while allowing three runs on six hits in six innings with no walks and five strikeouts.
He was also pretty handy with the bat. Urías lined a two-run single in the third off Keller after the Pirates intentionally walked catcher Austin Barnes to load the bases with two outs. The hit boosted the left-hander’s RBI total this season to seven in just 29 plate appearances. Urías had just four RBIs in the first four seasons of his career combined entering 2021.READ MORE: Chanukah Celebrations Stress Message Of "Light Over Darkness" In Trying Times
“I just try to go up there and do what I can,” Urías said. “I said it before, I like to go out there and take some swings and do my job.”
The victory gave the Dodgers their sixth series sweep this season. It also matched their longest winning streak ever against Pittsburgh. They took 13 consecutive games from the Pirates from May 4-July 20, 1952, when the franchise was in Brooklyn.
Keller, who left his previous start last Friday after just two innings with what the team called “heat-related illness, remains a bit of an enigma. Penciled in to be part of the core of the team’s rotation as the franchise goes through a massive overhaul, the 25-year-old struggled with his command. He walked three and hit a pair of batters while lasting just 2 2/3 innings and throwing only 41 of his 72 pitches for strikes as his ERA rose to 7.04.
“It’s just me going out and executing,” Keller said. “I had two batters 0-2 in the third inning. If I don’t hit them, it’s a whole different game. Just executing pitches is what it boils down to. Executing and getting ahead. When I do that, I’m pretty good. When I don’t, stuff like that happens today.”
Adam Frazier extended his hitting streak to a career-best 13 games but Pittsburgh has dropped four straight and is 11-27 over its last 38 games after briefly ticking over .500 (12-11) in late April.
Pirates: Placed RHP Luis Oviedo on the 10-day injured list retroactive to June 7 with a left quadriceps strain and activated RHP Trevor Cahill. … 1B Colin Moran was held out of the lineup a day after taking a pitch off the hand of Los Angeles reliever David Price.
Dodgers: Return to Dodger Stadium on Friday to start a three-game set with Texas. Clayton Kershaw (7-5, 3.66 ERA) faces Mike Foltynewicz (1-6, 4.75) in the opener.
Pirates: Travel to Milwaukee on Friday for a three-game series with the Brewers. Chase De Jong (0-0, 5.40) starts against Brandon Woodruff (4-2, 1.42 ERA).MORE NEWS: Authorities Investigating Fatal North Hollywood Shooting On Monday Evening
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