LOS ANGELES – The All-Star starters were announced on June 29th, and for the fourth time in his career, Mookie Betts is getting the nod.
After a bit of a slow start to the season for Mookie’s standards, he’s starting to look like his usual self. He batted over .300 for the month of June and has been on an absolute tear in his last seven games, batting .455 with four home runs and 11 RBI, a .559 on-base percentage and a 1.227 slugging percentage.
Overall this season, the Dodgers’ five-tool player has a slashline of .271/.372/.927, with 22 home runs, 56 RBI, and has scored 64 runs, one short of the team lead, which is held by fellow All-Star starter Freddie Freeman. He’s Top 5 in the league in homers and. OPS.
Shortly after the All-Star starting lineup was revealed, Betts confirmed that for the first time in his career he would be participating in the Home Run Derby, competing against the likes of Vlad Guerrero Jr., Randy Arozarena, Pete Alonso, and the hometown hero in Julio Rodriguez.
Betts has had one of the best careers of any player over the last decade. He’s been an MVP, a World Series champion twice, has played in the World Baseball Classic, has won a bunch of Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers, the list goes on. He’s done everything, well, almost everything.
“It’s [the Home Run Derby] the last thing I haven’t done,” Betts said on participating for the first time in his 10-year career. “My wife kind of compared it to LeBron not doing the dunk contest. And that’s not a knock or anything, but she just feels like for what I’m trying to do in baseball, bring awareness to Black culture, I should probably be more involved.”
Apart from all the exciting events scheduled for Betts and a few of his teammates, there is still a lot of work for them to do this season. They’re 46-37, which is good, but nowhere near as dominant as we’ve been accustomed to seeing. Over the past decade, the Dodgers have been kings of the NL West, winning it in 10 of the past 11 seasons.
However, it has not been as easy as previous seasons, as they’re currently three games back of one of the most surprising teams in baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and are tied with their archrivals in the San Francisco Giants for the second NL Wild Card spot.
The Dodgers have six games to go before the All-Star break, a four-game series against the Pirates, and a two-game crosstown showdown against the Angels. It’s not a difficult stretch by any means, and all their games are at home.
The D-Backs don’t have a tough last six games either, so these games will be crucial for the boys in blue to at least stay within striking distance of the top. If this past week was any indicator, you can definitely count on Mookie to do everything he can to make sure this last week entering the all-Star break is a good one.
Chisholm had been on the 10-day injured list because of turf toe in his right foot that’s been bothering him since mid-May. He was activated on June 25 and played his first game on June 27 in Boston against the Red Sox and in the three games he’s played since his return, he’s made an immediate impact batting 5 for 12 with two home runs, five RBI, and he even scored four runs. The Marlins have won all three games since Jazz has been back and are currently on a five-game win streak.
He’s also returned urban drip and melanated swag to the M-I-A baseball culture.
Chisholm was off to a pretty slow start offensively before going on the IL, having slashed .229/.291/.403, with just seven homers in 39 games. His hot return has brought that slashline up to .244/.304/.449. Before the injury, he had stolen 14 bases, which is by far the most on the team despite his having missed six-weeks. His thefts represent about a quarter of the team’s 54 stolen bases. He hasn’t swiped one so far since returning, but it’ll be interesting to see when he’ll start to light up the basepaths once again.
Jazz played second base throughout his first three seasons in Miami, but the team decided to move him to centerfield, where he’s played every single game this season. The move to the outfield helps the Marlins utilize his elite speed on defense as opposed to only showcasing it on offense, as he’s already made a couple of spectacular catches covering a ton of ground.
The move to centerfield also allows for the addition of Luis Arraez from Minnesota at second base. He’s batting nearly .400 up to this point, and is the starting second baseman for the NL All-Star team. He’s also an early NL MVP frontrunner.
Jazz Chisholm Return Right On Time
Chisholm’s return couldn’t have come at a better time. Miami is one of the most surprising teams in the league this year, as they currently have a 48-34 record, six games back of the Braves in the division race, but are at the top of the wild card standings, four games ahead of all the teams on the outside looking in.
As the All-Star break approaches, the Marlins have a total of ten games before they rest, and they are some crucial ones. They start with a three-game series in Atlanta to potentially make up some ground in the division race. Next, they have a four-game series in Miami against one of the most disappointing teams this year in the St. Louis Cardinals. Then, they wrap it up with three games at home against the Philadelphia Phillies, who are just a game and a half out of that last Wild Card spot and have been pretty hot as of late.
With the emergence of Arraez, the Marlins seem to be putting Chisholm in the middle of the order. They’re going to need that natural swagger and electricity from their star player to make sure Miami stays hot, and for the team to be in great shape come All-Star break.
He’s currently batting .257 for the season, a little bit more than 30 points below his career average of .291, but Dodger fans have good reason to believe one of best players in baseball is back to his old self. Over the last seven games, he’s batting .300 with four home runs and five RBI and has a .364 on-base percentage and a .700 slugging percentage to add on.
Mookie’s Defense Has Been Ahead Of Offense This Season
While his offensive game is starting to catch up, he’s been a lifesaver for the team on the defensive side. With the departure of guys like Trea Turner and Cody Bellinger, and the ACL injury that will cost Gavin Lux the entirety of the 2023 season, Betts has been asked to do more than usual, and boy has he stepped up.
Aside from playing his usual position of right field, where he’s won six Gold Gloves throughout his career, he’s also played 13 games this season at second base, the position Betts was actually originally drafted to play when he was taken by the Red Sox back in 2011 during the fifth round of the draft. He’s even played eight games as the captain of the infield at shortstop. He’s been stellar in those 21 games where he wasn’t playing right field, only committing one error.
After taking down the Yankees 8-4 on June 2nd, a game in which Betts hit a leadoff home run, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts compared him to an MLB Bro all-time great.
“He’s a modern-day Rickey Henderson,” he said about Betts. “Getting in the box, we throw up a zero, he puts up 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Guys feed off that.”
“It’s a super cool comparison, but Rickey’s a different breed,” Betts said when asked about the comparison.
LA Dodgers Continue Dominance Of Division
The Dodgers are currently sitting at 35-25, tied at the top of the NL West with the most surprising team in baseball, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The boys in blue also are tied for the best record in MLB when playing at home at 20-10.
The teams next six games will be on the road against the Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies, and then Dave Roberts‘ squad returns to Dodger Stadium for a three-game series against the White Sox and division-rival San Francisco Giants.
All four of these teams have been subpar this season, so this is a great opportunity for the Dodgers to increase their lead in the division as they will try and recapture their 10th NL West title in 11 years.
After winning 111 games last season, which was the most in franchise history and fourth most all-time, the team had a meltdown in the postseason, only winning one game. Betts and the Dodgers most certainly have a sour taste in their mouths, as they will try to right their wrongs from last season and make sure that this year has a much better ending.
LOS ANGELES – Even with the team as beat up as they are, Dusty Baker still has his boys rallying.
After trouncing their division rival in the Oakland Athletics 10-1 and then dropping a 7-5 decision to the Minnesota Twins on Memorial Day, they’re now 31-21 on the season and are second in the AL West, three games behind their fellow Lone Star State neighbor in the Texas Rangers.
Dusty Baker Battling Injuries
The Astros have been without star second baseman Jose Altuve all year following an injury in the World Baseball Classic, as well as fellow MLBbro Michael Brantley. “The Professional” is nursing a shoulder injury that’s supposed to keep him out until around the All-Star break.
In addition to those key absences, the Stros lost one of their best pitchers in Luis Garcia due to Tommy John surgery.
And yet, they’re still 10 games above .500, mainly because of the culture they’ve been able to establish and the belief they have in one another, and it all starts at the top with Baker.
Baker will turn 74 in June, and has been managing clubs since 1993. All this time managing teams, it took him 30 years, in his third season with Astros, to finally lead a team to a championship. He was only the seventh MLB manager since 1969 to win a championship as both a player and a manager.
Dusty Baker Builds On Illustrious Career
Before winning it all, Baker had won National League Manager of the Year three different times, during his stint managing the San Francisco Giants. He’s the current active leader in manager wins in the MLB, and was the only manager in the top 10 ranking in wins all time to have not won a championship until that point.
He has always established himself as a very solid guy to lead a team and after last year’s World Series, Baker eliminated any doubts about his championship pedigree.
Last year’s win established him as one of the greatest managers that the game has ever seen, as he is only one of four MLBbro managers to lead a team to glory.
Time To Defend The Throne
And now, he has a challenge that he’s never had in his managerial career: to defend a world title.
The one thing that is different compared to other years is that the AL West has actually become competitive. The Mariners continue to roll from last season’s success, the first-place Rangers seem to have figured it out, and even the LA Angels have been in the fight as they have what some would consider the two best players in baseball in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Even with their fourth-best win percentage in the AL at .596, they’ve been a subpar hitting team, as they are 22nd in the league in on-base plus slugging percentage, and 23rd in home runs hit. However, what’s kept them at the top is that they’re one of the best teams in terms of pitching, as they lead the MLB in ERA at 3.16, and are second in WHIP at 1.17.
With Houston being as beat up as they are, them only being two games out of first is truly impressive. They’re only going to get healthier from here on out, and with Dusty still continuing to be one of the best managers in the league, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Astros once again be playing baseball deep in October.
In his last seven games, he has been an absolute force to be reckoned with. He’s batting .333, with one home run, three RBI, and has an on-base percentage of .357 and a slugging percentage of .630.
During this hot stretch, Mullins was able to hit for the cycle on May 12th against the Pirates at Camden Yards after blasting a 376-foot shot in the bottom of the 8th. It was the second cycle of the season, and the 12th cycle in Orioles franchise history.
His performance earned him a standing ovation from the Orioles faithful when he took the field in the 9th, a moment his teammates gave him by having him take the field on his own to receive the appreciation he deserved. “Just to have a great crowd out there today, and to be able to share the moment with a lot of people was fun,” Mullins said after the game.
On the season, Mullins is slashing .267/.359/.466, with five home runs and 31 RBI. After a very slow start, he’s been able to find his footing and get back to the form that earned him an All-Star nod back in 2021.
Mullins is also tied for third in the American League for stolen bases with 12 and is tied for second in the MLB in triples with three. It just continues to show how he is able to put himself in a position for team success by giving them an opportunity to score.
Over the next two weeks, the Orioles are going to have a couple of division matchups, taking on the Blue Jays and Yankees on the road, and a couple of AL West matchups with the Angels and Rangers, both at home. It’s going to be a tough stretch, as all four of teams have winning records.
Even though these next two weeks won’t be easy, it does not mean Orioles fans should be discouraged. A huge reason why this team has been pretty successful during the first quarter of the season is because they have one of the best records in baseball when playing on the road at 13-8.
They continue to show that they can win anytime, anywhere. Especially with these next two road series’s being divisional matchup, their muscles on the road will be the reason why they’ll always be in the fight, which is a crucial component to having any sort of success during the rest of the regular season and into the postseason.