For five innings Friday night, the Dodgers lineup could get nothing going at Fenway Park.
Then, Mookie Betts spurred a sudden rally at his old stomping grounds.
In his first game back in Boston since the Red Sox traded him to the Dodgers three years ago, Betts was instrumental in the Dodgers’ 7-4 comeback win, hitting a leadoff double in the sixth to spark a game-tying rally before drawing a walk in the seventh that helped the Dodgers go ahead.
“I was just trying to enjoy it, man,” said Betts, the former Red Sox star who was serenaded with a standing ovation before his first at-bat and raced around the ballpark pregame to catch up with old coaches and teammates. “It’s kind of hard to explain. You have to be in it to understand what I’m saying. But I’m just glad we won.”
Betts wasn’t the only player making some sort of reunion.
Former Dodgers outfielder Alex Verdugo — a key part of the Betts trade — opened the scoring with a leadoff home run.
Former Red Sox shortstop Kiké Hernández — who was only traded back to the Dodgers last month — tied the game with an RBI single in the sixth.
Longtime Dodgers star Justin Turner — going 0 for five in his first game against the Dodgers since his offseason departure — created havoc in the seventh, watching his old teammate Max Muncy throw away a ball at third to give the Red Sox some late life.
Even former Dodgers prospect Connor Wong — another piece of the Betts trade — had a hand in the result, getting caught in a costly rundown on the bases to end the eighth and effectively extinguish any chance of a Boston revival.
Still, in the end, Betts had the biggest contributions in his long-awaited Fenway return.
His double off the Green Monster in the sixth started a three-run rally, erasing the Dodgers early 3-0 deficit.
His walk in the seventh was immediately followed by a go-ahead double from Freddie Freeman (one of his four hits on the night) then a two-run double from Muncy (part of his three-RBI game).
“I think he was anxious to just kind of get that moment past him and acknowledge the fans,” said manager Dave Roberts, who once upon a time received his own raucous homecoming in Boston after his iconic steal in the 2004 American League Championship Series. “[Then Mookie did] what he does best, and that’s play baseball.”
Indeed, the Dodgers leaned on Betts and Freeman as usual to collect their third straight win and improve to 20-3 since the start of the month — on track for their best August performance in franchise history.
This time, however, Betts had to lean on Freeman, as well, getting advice from a teammate who experienced a similar — albeit, much more emotional — homecoming series in Atlanta last year.
“Him and [Jason Heyward] before my first at-bat were sitting next to me, talking to me, making sure I was good,” Betts said. “The very last thing [Freddie] said was, ‘Enjoy the moment. Don’t rush it.’ And every couple of innings he would just come in, check in and make sure I was good. That’s why I love him so much.”
Betts got off to a slow start, after the opening ovation left him physically shaking for the first couple innings.
“Just the whole situation,” Betts said, “it took me a little bit to settle in.”
Once he did, however, the Dodgers (79-48) offense came roaring to life.
After Betts laced his double to lead off the sixth, Freeman followed with a single before Will Smith cranked a line drive off the top of the Monster to put the Dodgers on the board.
In the next at-bat, a ground ball from Muncy plated another run. Then, with two outs and left-handed outfielder James Outman getting the day off, Hernández delivered in a rare right-on-right matchup, lifting the game-tying base hit over the second baseman’s head.
In the top of the seventh, the Dodgers struck for three runs again.
Michael Busch and Betts drew walks. Freeman hammered an RBI double into the gap. Muncy roped a two-run double down the right-field line. And, despite some tense moments from the bullpen late, the Dodgers’ lead — and Betts’ victorious return to Boston — was never in danger again.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” Betts said. “So … it was super cool and a very special moment I’ll cherish and remember for the rest of my life.”