Mookie Betts and Corey Seager gambled on a double steal. It paid off for Dodgers
Mookie Betts slips to third behind the Padres' Manny Machado on a double steal during the seventh inning of Game 2. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Before the National League Division Series kicked off this week, Mookie Betts was asked how much research he did in the postseason, how much time his nose is buried in scouting reports and video clips and analytical data on opponents ahead of a series.
"I'm kind of in the middle," said Betts. "I want to know some information, but there is definitely too much. I have to go out and play the game and let the game tell me what's going on."
What the Betts game announced at the end of Wednesday's seventh inning with the Dodgers at a one-off lead over the San Diego Padres was that his team needed another spark.
Moments before, the momentum of Game 2 had impacted Cody Bellinger's homemade heist on Fernando Tatis Jr. A match between the courts during the seventh inning stretch further heightened tension between rivals in southern California.
In the next inning, the Dodgers had a chance to start insurance runs. After Betts had reached the second base after choosing a field player and the single by Corey Seager, he suddenly saw the way to it.
When Justin Turner came on the plate, the Padres made a pitch change. Drew Pomeranz came in, a tall left-hander with a long kick in his delivery. Dodger's coaches predictably didn't call for theft, considering the team stole just 29 bags this season - barely half of the 55 leading Padres - and certainly not when the middle of their order comes in a cheap duel. unique situation.
When Betts and Seager started for Pomeranz 'first place, it was a decision they made - a successful game, without which the Dodgers might not have won.
"In that situation," said manager Dave Roberts, "that was the difference in the game."
Even with a 95 mph Pomeranz fastball, Betts and Seager's jumps were so good that Padre's catcher Austin Nola didn't bother attempting a throw.
When he got up third, Betts clapped his hands and pointed approvingly at Seager. Two bats later, thanks to Turner's sacrificial fly and Max Muncy's RBI single, both players were back on the field - the decisive runs for the team's 6-5 victory.
"It was a great game, a heads-up game," said Roberts, confirming the theft. "Mookie and Corey went alone."
There is a fine line between the freedom of the players and the ability to make decisive decisions. But in Roberts' case, he has a roster that has repeatedly earned his trust through his meticulous approach.
"You know these guys," said Roberts. "Boys dig a lot."
Perhaps no more than Betts, who celebrated his 28th birthday on Wednesday with his second two-goal game of this postseason and only the third theft of his playoff career.
"This is definitely one of the better games I've played," Betts told Fox Sports. “Of course, we needed two teams that are very knowledgeable. It was a battle. It was like that all year round. I can't expect anything else in the playoffs. "
However, it could have been a very different result if it hadn't been for the perfectly executed game on the bases.
If all other things stayed the same, the Dodgers would likely have only got one run in seventh if Betts and Seager had stayed in first and second places. They needed that boost before the Padres comeback in the ninth inning. Without them, the best-of-five series could remain a 1-1 draw.
Though the double steal may have been largely overshadowed for Roberts by the more dramatic Wednesday night moments - somewhat forgotten after a hectic October fight - it was a reminder of how games are won this time of year, the fine margins in between Teams that succeed in the postseason and the ones that go home.
"It was a very big game," said Roberts, "by one very good player - two good players."
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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