For most of this season, Mookie Betts has not played like one of the best players in the game (as he has been for most of his big-league career), the difference-maker he was for the Dodgers last year.
But Thursday was a reminder of what he is capable of doing.
Betts led off the game with a home run then added a Gold Glove-level defensive play reminiscent of his NLCS Game 5 gem in October. Both were needed as the Dodgers edged the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-3 in a game shortened by rain to complete a three-game sweep at PNC Park and extend their winning streak against the Pirates to 13 games.
Betts’ leadoff home run off Pirates starter Mitch Keller was his first homer since May 18 (also in his first at-bat), ending a stretch of 75 plate appearances without a homer.
The Pirates matched that in the second inning and were threatening to take a lead for the first time in the series after Phillip Evans’ leadoff single and Erik Gonzalez’s RBI double. A wild pitch moved Gonzalez to third when Ka’ai Tom lofted a fly ball to shallow right field.
Betts came charging in and to his left, snatching the ball shin-high as he ran, then pivoting and spinning 360 degrees before uncorking a throw home. Gonzalez had tagged at third but he was out at home for a double play.
The Dodgers took the lead for good in the top of the third, scoring three times and chasing Keller, who hit two batters on the way to loading the bases.
Zach McKinstry drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly, but Julio Urias had the inning’s key hit. He ended Keller’s day by sending a 2-and-2 curveball into right field to drive in two runs.
The single gives Urias seven RBI this season – the most among major-league pitchers in what is likely the last season they are required to hit.
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Urias gave up a two-run home run to Bryan Reynolds in the bottom of the inning, making it a 4-3 game. But he got through six innings, retiring 10 of the final 11.
The Dodgers gave their bullpen a little margin for error with an RBI single from McKinstry in the seventh and Justin Turner’s RBI single in the eighth before the day’s intermittent rains intensified. The game was called after an hour’s delay with one out in the eighth inning.