MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Arm and hammer: Betts does it all

Arm and hammer: Betts does it all

HOUSTON -- Sometimes, one night at the ballpark is enough to understand all the ways certain special players are capable of impacting baseball games. In this case, that player is Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts.

Here's how he spent his Friday night at Minute Maid Park as the Red Sox beat the Astros 2-1:

 Drew a one-out walk in the top of the third inning and scored the first run of the game on a Mitch Moreland single.

 Threw a 96.8-mph strike from right field to the plate to nail the potential tying run, George Springer, in the bottom of the sixth inning.

 Homered on the first pitch of the eighth inning to break a 1-1 tie.

Betts' go-ahead homer

As nights go, Mookie had a good week. His manager and teammates have watched him emerge as one of the best baseball players on the planet in recent years.

And on a night like this one, when his whole game is on display, they're still impressed.

• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Betts and other #ASGWorthy players

"Just in a small snapshot, there's Mookie's skillset on both sides of the ball," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He's a dynamic player."

The Red Sox have won 17 of 25 games, and at 38-29, are one game behind the first-place Yankees in the American League East.

They're winning because Moreland, Jackie Bradley Jr. and other hitters have gotten hot. They're winning because their bullpen is performing as well as almost any in the game.

And with left-hander Drew Pomeranz allowing one earned run in 6 1/3 solid innings Friday, it was a good sign for the rotation as well.

• Pomeranz shows marked improvement

And there's Betts.

He's the guy who finished second to Mike Trout in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting in 2016.

Did that motivate him to take the next step?

"No, that has nothing to do with anything this year," he said. "My No. 1 thing is to win a World Series. The rest comes as it comes."

Indeed, if this season plays out as the Red Sox hope it will, individual awards will be forgotten. Betts is a difference-maker, and in the last couple of weeks, he has been at his best.

He's 12-of-27 in the last six games with five doubles, three home runs and five RBIs. Yankees rookie Aaron Judge is the favorite for this season's AL MVP, but Betts is on pace for 56 doubles, 29 home runs and 92 RBIs, which could put him high on the ballot again.

Betts' RBI double

"He's an electric player," Pomeranz said. "He's a guy everyone's watching. We love watching him. We get pumped up when he does things like that. He's an unbelievable player. We love having him behind us."

The Red Sox were leading 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth when the Astros had Springer on second base when shortstop Carlos Correa laced a hard-hit single to right field.

Betts charged the ball, and seeing that Astros third-base coach Gary Pettis had waved Springer home, came up throwing. His 96.8-mph laser was his fastest tracked by Statcast™, and got Springer easily.

Even after Betts' leadoff home run in the eighth won the game, it was the throw home that drew a smile after the game.

"You don't get those opportunities very much," Betts said. "For me to be successful at that time was definitely something I take pride in."

Asked about his recent hot streak, he said: "Obviously, I want to put it together longer, but I'm just trying to take it day by day and help the team in some way. Today was a good day."

Around the visiting clubhouse, they said watching Betts do these kinds of things never gets old.

"He's unbelievable," Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes said. "The guys doing it at the plate. He's doing it defensively. I'm glad he's on my team. He's an incredible player."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.