Mookie Betts starts in the infield and smashes two homers as Miguel Vargas struggles

Dodger Mookie Betts points and celebrates his home run as Angels pitcher Griffin Canning and catcher Matt Thaiss look away
Dodgers second baseman Mookie Betts celebrates his third inning at home while Angels starting pitcher Griffin Canning and catcher Matt Thaiss look away at Dodger Stadium on Friday. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Mookie Betts made his fourth consecutive infield start on Friday night, a move that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said had more to do with the month-long downfall of second baseman Miguel Vargas than a penchant for Betts to turbocharge his bat when playing “in the dirt”. .”

But it becomes impossible to ignore the correlation between Betts’ field starts and his high production, especially after the first man hit a pair of solo home runs and a two-run double to lead the Dodgers to a victory of 11-4 over the Angels in front of a sold-out crowd of 52,214 at Dodger Stadium.

Tony Gonsolin allowed four runs and seven hits in 62/3 innings and struck out five to improve to 5-3 with a 3.86 ERA, and he teamed with Julio Urías (six innings, two runs, three hits Thursday) to give the Dodgers straight starts of six or more innings for the first time since June 13-14, when Gonsolin and Clayton Kershaw did.

Freddie Freeman hit a solo homer in the first inning, JD Martinez hit a solo shot in the second and an RBI double in the third, and Will Smith capped a four-run eighth inning with a two-run homer, as the Dodgers (50 -38) won for the fourth time in five games.

Dodgers designated hitter JD Martinez watches his home run go by as Angels pitcher Griffin Canning looks on

Dodgers designated hitter JD Martinez watches his second inning home run fly as Angels starting pitcher Griffin Canning watches at Dodger Stadium on Friday. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The Angels (45-45) lost for the eighth time in nine games and brought them down to .500 for the first time since June 3, when they were 30-30.

Betts hit his first homer off Angels starter Griffin Canning in the third inning and his second reliever Tyler Anderson in the fifth, giving him 25 homers to lead this season and 27 career multihomer games.

The Angels, shut out for 23 straight innings against the Dodgers this season, finally broke through with a fourth three-run against Gonsolin, who went through the first three innings in which he needed just 25 pitches to strike out all nine hitters.

Shohei Ohtani led the fourth with a right-hand single, Taylor Ward hit a field single and Mickey Moniak, the former No. 1 overall pick the Angels acquired for pitcher Noah Syndergaard last summer, doubled a three-run homer with a 110.5 mph speeding out to right field to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 4-3.

But Betts homered off the top of the left-field short wall and deflected into the bullpen to push the lead to 5-3 in the fifth, and he called a two-out single from James Outman and a marches to Miguel Rojas with a two-run double left to make it 7-3 in the sixth.

Learn more: Hernández: Julio Urías is the ace the Dodgers desperately need. He just needs to play like that.

Betts will start Tuesday night’s All-Star Game in the outfield, but now has a .331 ERA (39 for 118) and 1.072 on-base percentage plus slugging in 31 games at second base and shortstop and averaging .243 (51 for 210) and .864 OPS in 53 games in right field.

Vargas, meanwhile, is mired in a nose dive that has not only cost him playing time, but could warrant a demotion to triple-A Oklahoma City, where he could work to regain the kick and confidence that have makes him the best pure hitting prospect in the organization. this season.

“I think everything should be on the table, I really mean it,” Roberts said before the game. “There’s a piece of winning here, and there’s also a piece of focus on where he needs to be, because clearly right now he’s pressing. He has never struggled like this.

“So if it comes to that…it’s always healthy to have that conversation with young players who are struggling. It would be for his benefit, both short and long term, but right now he’s there and he will play [Saturday night].”

Vargas used his swerve power to hit .313 with .878 OPS, 49 home runs and 265 RBIs in 410 minor league games, and the Dodgers were so confident his bat would make it into the major leagues that they moved to second base, a position where he made just 27 minor league starts, over the winter.

But Vargas, 23, only showed glimpses of the hitter that he was in the minors. He bats .197 with a .670 OPS, seven home runs, 15 doubles, four triples and 32 RBIs in 79 games, and has looked outmatched for most of the past month, batting .082 (five for 61) in 21 games since June 9. .

“Winnings are always important, and there comes a time when we have to exhaust our best options to win a baseball game,” Roberts said. “So I think having that option of having Mookie in the dirt, picking matchups for Miguel Vargas, is smart.”

If the Dodgers demote Vargas, they could recall Michael Busch, who bats .320 at Oklahoma City. And, of course, Betts would play more games in the infield.

“I think the defense is improving and the experience of being at the major league level helps,” Roberts said of Vargas. “But it’s also helpful to feel like you’re getting hits and gaining confidence. I think [he adds to the team], but at what point do you decide it could be harmful? I don’t know the answer right now, but having a conversation is in his best interest and it’s healthy.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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