BOSTON -- Of all the outfield catches Red Sox rookie Mookie Betts has made in his professional career, he said Friday night’s leaping grab on a Jacoby Ellsbury fly ball to the triangle in center ranked as the best he’s ever made.
Too bad he could barely remember it after the game.
“I don’t really remember what happened,” Betts said. “It just all happened at once -- then I hit the ground and saw the ball in my glove. Happy about that.”
Betts' catch came at a crucial point in the Red Sox’s 4-3 win over the New York Yankees. With Boston entering the top of the eighth with a 4-2 lead after tacking on an insurance run the previous inning, Red sox manager John Farrell turned the game over to setup man Junichi Tazawa, who promptly surrendered a home run to Derek Jeter to kick off the inning. Ellsbury wasted no time at the plate as well, swinging at Tazawa’s second pitch and driving it out to deep center. Still learning to play the Fenway outfield, Betts’ instinct took over, sending him racing back in an attempt to rein in the ball. As he made his way onto the warning track, Betts leapt at the last possible second, extending forward toward the ball to rob Ellsbury of what would have easily been extra bases.
Considering Ellsbury’s speed on the basepaths, along with the double Mark Teixeira hit one batter later that would have tied the game, the catch was as big as they get in a Sox-Yankees game.
“Heckuva play,” Farrell said. “He’s going back on a ball. Leaping catch at a pivotal time of the game -- particularly after Jeter’s solo home run to start off the eighth inning. For a guy who’s transitioned positions inside this year, a very athletic play.”
Betts was nonchalant when describing how his athleticism contributed to the play. “Figured I’d run that far, I might as well dive and try and catch it,” Betts said.
Moving to the outfield just this season, Betts said he feels much more comfortable than he did June 29 in his first major league stint, where he looked shaky on several plays. With the help of Pawtucket hitting coach Dave Joppie, as well as first-base coach Arnie Beyeler, Pawtucket outfielder Corey Brown, and, of course, defensive extraordinaire Jackie Bradley Jr., Betts feels he’s continuing to make progress patrolling center.
“They tell me things to think about in BP and things to do,” Betts said. “I feel like it's translating.”
Betts, who was told he was being activated while getting ready to play for Triple-A Pawtucket around 2 p.m. Friday, also went 1-for-3 at the plate with a run scored.