Betts' long streak without a strikeout ends

Betts' long streak without a strikeout ends

TORONTO -- It was simply striking how long Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts went between strikeouts.

In the top of the fourth inning of Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays, Francisco Liriano got Betts to whiff at a 2-2 slider that was on the outside black of the strike zone, about knee-high.

That ended a span of 129 regular-season plate appearances by Betts, the longest streak by a Boston hitter since Denny Doyle in 1975 (159 plate appearances).

It was also the longest such streak by any Major League hitter since Juan Pierre of the Marlins went 147 plate appearances without a strikeout in 2004.

"It seems like every at-bat, he's competing and putting the ball in play or walking and getting on base, however," said Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi. "Especially nowadays where people are throwing mid-to-upper 90s all the time, with lower 90s or upper 80s offspeed, that's crazy and pretty incredible for him to go that long without striking out."

The last pitcher Betts struck out against in the regular season before Wednesday was Baltimore's Oliver Drake on Sept. 12, 2016. Betts did strike out against Cleveland's Trevor Bauer in Game 1 of last October's American League Division Series.

Another thing that made the streak so impressive for Betts is that he is a power hitter with a ferocious swing.

"We're talking about an elite hitter that is very balanced, has got great hand-eye coordination; it's not like he's going up to look to put the first pitch in play," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "I read something here today on the breakdown of the number of at-bats he got to two strikes, and the batting average inside of the streak. He's a heck of a player."

In the 29 regular-season games that Betts went without a strikeout, he slashed .360/.425/.456 with five doubles, two homers and 14 RBIs.

With two strikes during that stretch of no strikeouts, Betts hit .278 (15-for-54) with a .315 slugging percentage.

For perspective, consider that entering action on Wednesday, Major League hitters had a .172 average and a .273 slugging percentage with two strikes in 2017.

"I don't think you really realize it when you're in the midst of it until you're asked questions daily and things are made of it," said Farrell. "He's a special player. He punches out the one time, he comes right back with a base hit the next time. We'll get more very good production out of him."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the longest streak in the Expansion Era (since 1961) for plate appearances without a strikeout is 223 plate appearances by Philadelphia's Dave Cash in 1976.

Betts, who seldom likes to draw attention to any of his personal accomplishments, downplayed his streak after it ended.

"It's irrelevant. Just an out," said Betts. "It is what it is."

After a 1-for-4 performance, Betts is slashing .347/.407/.469 this season with three doubles, one homer and five RBIs.

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.