The King was in the house Saturday, Lakers star LeBron James taking in his Dodgers bobblehead night from a club-level suite in Chavez Ravine, and Mookie Betts rewarded the NBA’s all-time scoring leader with not one but two royal salutes.
Betts hit solo home runs in the third and fifth innings to lead the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory and a day-night doubleheader sweep of the Miami Marlins.
As the dynamic leadoff man crossed the plate after each homer, he tipped his helmet toward James above the first-base dugout.
“It’s super cool,” Betts said on the SportsNet LA postgame show. “I go to Lakers games sometimes, and I wave to him. We haven’t really gotten to talk a whole lot, but game recognizes game, and I had to try to show out for him.”
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Betts downplayed his interactions with James when talking to reporters afterward, saying “none” when asked what kind of inspiration he drew from him, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wasn’t buying it.
“It’s just respect,” Roberts said. “It’s like, ‘I know you’re here in the house, and this is still my house, and I’m going to put on a show for you.’ Hitting a baseball is as hard as anything to do, but I just think Mookie had another gear to show out tonight, and we were all the beneficiaries.”
Betts might not be the LeBron James of baseball, but he’s a seven-time All-Star who won World Series titles with the Boston Red Sox in 2018 and the Dodgers in 2020, was named the 2018 American League most valuable player and is in contention for the National League MVP this season.
His 33rd and 34th homers of the season — it was his 28th career multihomer game — moved Betts to within one of his career high set last season and helped the Dodgers (76-47) improve to 17-2 in August and complete a 9-1 homestand.
Betts also hit a tiebreaking, two-run single in the eighth inning of the first game to push the Dodgers toward a 3-1 victory. He’s batting .379 (61 for 161) with 14 homers, 17 doubles, 39 RBIs, 43 runs, 29 walks and 24 strikeouts in 41 games since June 28. The Dodgers are 30-12 in those games.
“I’m surprised but I’m also not,” Betts said when asked about being one shy of his career high for homers in mid-August. “I’ve worked really hard to be where I am now, and I’m going to continue to work hard.
“I’ve just got to take it in stride. Whatever comes, comes. Don’t get too high. Don’t get too low. I don’t really pay attention to numbers. If we go out and win, that’s all I really care about.”
Betts snapped a 1-1 tie in the nightcap with a 402-foot homer to left field off Marlins left-hander Braxton Garrett in the third, and his 419-foot homer to left-center in the fifth off Garrett gave the Dodgers a 3-1 lead.
The Dodgers scored their first run in the second inning on a rally featuring two trade-deadline acquisitions, Amed Rosario leading off with a double to left and scoring on Kiké Hernández’s two-out single to right.
That was enough run support for Julio Urías, the veteran left-hander who continued to establish himself as the kind of horse the Dodgers need to front their playoff rotation by giving up one run and five hits, striking out five and walking none in seven innings to improve to 11-6 with a 4.15 ERA.
Urías, who struggled in the first half with injury (hamstring) and inconsistency, has been as dominant on the mound in recent weeks as Betts has been in the batter’s box, going 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA in his last five starts in which he’s given up seven earned runs and 24 hits in 31 innings, striking out 32 and walking four.
“Yeah, this is what we need,” Roberts said. “We’ve talked about it. He knows that first and foremost, and he’s delivered. So now it’s a sprint, and he’s got an opportunity to right his season and put us on his back on his days, and that’s what he’s done.”
Urías gave up a first-inning solo homer to Josh Bell, whose two-out shot traveled 431 feet into the left-center pavilion, and nothing else, thanks to his ability to escape two jams.
Miami put two on with no outs in the third when Nick Fortes was hit by a pitch and Jon Berti singled to right, but Urías struck out power-hitting leadoff man Jorge Soler with a 90-mph cut fastball, got .360-hitting Luis Arráez to fly out to left field and Bell to pop out to first to end the inning.
Urías retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings but got into more trouble in the seventh when Jake Burger led off with a single and Avisail Garcia hit a two-out double off the left-field wall to put runners on second and third. But Urías got Fortes to fly out to left with his 100th and final pitch to preserve a 3-1 lead.
“He was awesome,” Roberts said of Urías. “You could just feel the energy tonight. The City Connect jerseys, LeBron in the house, the crowd was really energetic, and he just fed off of it. So tonight, it was the Mookie and Julio show.”
Dodgers reliever Ryan Brasier gave up one hit and struck out one in a scoreless eighth inning, and Brusdar Graterol escaped a second-and-third, two-out jam in the ninth when Hernández charged Jesus Sanchez’s slow roller to third and made a long, off-balance throw to first for an out that was upheld after a replay review.
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Hernández’s play capped a night of stout defense, which included Urías gloving Yuli Gurriel’s 105-mph line drive in the second, shortstop Miguel Rojas’ backhand diving stop of Arraez’s sixth-inning grounder and long throw to first, and Rosario’s diving stop of Jazz Chisolm Jr.’s ninth-inning grounder to the second-base hole and throw to second base for a force out.
Rosario, a shortstop who had never played second base before being acquired from the Cleveland Guardians in late July, also turned a 5-4-3 double play with Hernández in the fourth inning.
“What Kiké did tonight at third base was spectacular, and Rojas has been a top defender at shortstop this year,” Roberts said. “And Rosario, he’s just taking on that second-base position, and he’s just a joy to watch. He’s made some really nice plays over there.”
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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.