Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts is having perhaps his best season yet, which is saying plenty for the 2018 AL MVP. He may not win the 2023 NL MVP Award and join Frank Robinson as the only players to win in both leagues, but Betts could set two MLB single-season records as a leadoff hitter on Friday night in Seattle in a potential World Series preview.
Betts did overtake Atlanta's Ronald Acuña Jr. as the NL MVP favorite briefly last month when Betts had a historic August at the plate, but Betts has faded a bit in September with a .226 average and just one homer and five RBI. That homer came Monday vs. Seattle and was his career-high 39th. That total has tied the MLB single-season record from the leadoff spot held by Alfonso Soriano (2006) and George Springer (2019).
Monday was also Betts' 12th homer this season in his first at-bat of a game as a leadoff hitter. That's one shy of Soriano's record of 13, set in 2003. Betts now has 48 career leadoff homers, which are tied with Ian Kinsler for fifth all-time. Betts' 103 RBI are not a career high (113 in 2016 with Boston) but are tied with Colorado's Charlie Blackmon (2017) for the most in a single season by a leadoff hitter.
Don't be shocked if Betts, Freddie Freeman and other key Dodgers get a few games off down the stretch because they are essentially locked into the No. 2 seed in the National League playoffs behind Atlanta and a first-round bye. But because Los Angeles was off Thursday, they should be in the lineup Friday. Betts is +400 to go yard and +180 for an RBI.
Betts & Co. first face excellent Mariners right-hander George Kirby (10-9, 3.48 ERA), who has arguably the best control in the major leagues. He's never faced L.A. or Betts. Kirby's 9.44 strikeout-to-walk is the highest this season among qualified starting pitchers and his 16 walks are by far the fewest among all pitchers overall, not just starters. Kirby had a five-start streak of zero walks end last time out when he allowed two free passes in a no-decision at the Rays.
Kirby hasn't been sharp in four straight starts, but those were all on the road. He is 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 home starts. Seattle's best everyday player, outfielder Julio Rodriguez, could make some history as well on Friday with an RBI to give him 100 on the year. He would join Alex Rodriguez (1998 with Seattle) and Acuña (2019 with Atlanta) as the only players in history age 22-or-younger with a 30 homer-30-steal season and 100 RBI in the same year.
Rodriguez is +175 for an RBI and has never faced Dodgers rookie Bobby Miller (9-3, 3.98 ERA), who sees the Mariners for the first time.
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