ARLINGTON, Texas — Mookie Betts was 24 years previous when he puzzled if he would ever be any higher. He had simply completed as runner-up to Mike Trout for the American League Most Invaluable Participant Award in 2016, with a season stuffed with hits and homers and steals and defensive excellence. What may he do subsequent?
“I knew it was going to be robust for me to repeat that or get higher,” Betts stated on Tuesday after his virtuoso efficiency for the Los Angeles Dodgers’ victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in Recreation 1 of the World Sequence.
“I instructed myself I simply need to be constant. Watching the greats play, they’re all simply actually constant. They hit their house runs always, or drive in runs always, or stroll always, make good performs always. It’s not only one after which an extended time period earlier than one other one. You simply should be good in any respect facets of the sport, on a regular basis.”
How’s that for private expectations? Simply be good at every part, on a regular basis. Few gamers have the talents to even ponder such a purpose, not to mention the drive to realize it.
Betts shouldn’t be like most gamers, which is why the Dodgers gave him a 12-year, $365 million contract in July, earlier than he had even performed an official recreation for them.
The Dodgers acquired Betts from the Boston Purple Sox in a February commerce, hoping he would elevate them to their first championship since 1988. Betts had led the Purple Sox to a title towards the Dodgers in 2018, when he additionally received the M.V.P. Award. They knew he was a celebrity, however didn’t know the extent of his every day excellence.
On Tuesday, Betts grew to become the primary participant in World Sequence historical past with a house run, two runs scored and two stolen bases in the identical recreation. The Dodgers had seen him do it earlier than, in August towards Colorado, a part of the sliver of a season through which he hit .292 with 16 homers, 39 runs batted in, 10 steals and a major-league-best 3.4 wins above substitute, as calculated by Baseball Reference.
“He does some particular issues like hit homers and take the additional base and issues like that,” stated starter Clayton Kershaw, who glided by six environment friendly innings for the win in Recreation 1. “However I believe the day in, day trip consistency of what he does on the baseball discipline separates him.”
Betts additionally confirmed the sort of daring base working too typically lacking within the trendy, risk-averse recreation. He stole second after drawing a leadoff stroll towards a tiring Tyler Glasnow within the fifth inning of Recreation 1, then stole third — with Corey Seager swiping second — as Justin Turner struck out. Betts broke for house on Max Muncy’s grounder to first, sliding in safely, headfirst, forward of Yandy Diaz’s throw.
“I take delight in stealing bases,” Betts stated, “and as soon as I get on the basepaths, I’m simply making an attempt to the touch house. Nonetheless I get there may be how I get there, however I attempt to be aggressive.”
Betts homered off Kershaw of their final World Sequence recreation, the 2018 clincher at Dodger Stadium. The Purple Sox received the collection, 4 video games to 1, and the Dodgers wanted 18 innings to get their solely victory. That Dodgers crew didn’t have Betts, didn’t have the perfect variations of Kershaw and Cody Bellinger, and didn’t have a lot of an opportunity.
On this World Sequence, the Dodgers have all of the star energy. The Rays aren’t a traditional underdog — they had been 40-20 within the common season, the perfect file within the A.L. — however, a minimum of on paper, they appear the half by comparability. Only one Tampa Bay participant, starter Charlie Morton, has made a number of All-Star groups. The Dodgers have three former M.V.P. winners, in Bellinger, Betts and Kershaw. One other participant, Seager, has been a finalist.
And after surviving a three-games-to-one deficit to Atlanta within the Nationwide League Championship Sequence, the Dodgers appear to be enjoying with the sort of ease and pleasure befitting their pedigree.
“I don’t know if looser is the appropriate phrase, however we’re having enjoyable,” stated Bellinger, who completed the scoring within the N.L.C.S. with a go-ahead homer and began the World Sequence with one other, off Glasnow within the fourth inning on Tuesday. “We all know how difficult it’s; it’s not a simple sport. To place strain on your self, it’s simply not the best way to do it. I believe we’re all simply trusting in one another and understanding how good we’re.”
Bellinger was a platoon participant within the 2018 World Sequence, beginning solely two of 5 video games. Kershaw was hit laborious within the opening video games of the N.L.C.S. in Milwaukee and the World Sequence in Boston, feeding a narrative line he has searched for years to shake.
Kershaw evened his postseason file on Tuesday at 12-12, with a 4.22 earned run common. He confronted 21 hitters in Recreation 1 and allowed solely three to succeed in base.
He was equally dominant within the 2017 opener towards the Houston Astros, who got here again to win their notorious championship, aided by a sign-stealing scheme that most likely robbed Kershaw of elusive postseason glory. He was not cautious sufficient in altering his indicators for Recreation 5 in Houston, and the Astros feasted on his signature slider. The Dodgers misplaced in seven, and the Rays denied them a grudge match by beating Houston within the A.L.C.S.
“No, you’ll be able to’t suppose like that,” Kershaw stated on Monday, when requested if the crew had wished one other probability on the Astros. “The Rays are a really formidable opponent, and successful a World Sequence goes to be particular irrespective of who you play. 2017 is over; we will’t return and fear about that.”
The Dodgers preserve incomes probabilities to make up for October heartbreak. They had been 43-17 this season, for a .717 successful proportion that ranks as the perfect for any crew for the reason that 1954 Cleveland Indians.
That crew misplaced to the New York Giants in a World Sequence sweep, so the Dodgers are already a step forward. You get the sensation there are extra victories to return.
“It’s laborious not to consider successful; it’s laborious not to consider what which may really feel like,” Kershaw stated. “However I believe that’s what I’ve to do. I believe that’s what we now have to do as a crew. Simply tomorrow. Continuously preserve placing that in your mind: win tomorrow, win tomorrow, win tomorrow. You try this three extra instances, then you’ll be able to give it some thought all you need.”