A thing about baseball is that there just aren’t that many opportunities to be cool. It’s hard enough to look cool when you’re wearing basically footie pajamas, though some pull it off, but it’s more a function of the game itself not offering many chances to display anything resembling panache. It’s too regimented, too boundarized, too much a sequence of discrete actions rather than a flow. The coolness that exists tends to be in the margins; the bat flips, the trots, even, occasionally, the slides. These are punctuation rather than text. The problem is that this is a sport where the team is possession of the ball is the team trying to prevent scoring from happening, and scoring is inherently fun. Defense is the cops. It’s hard to make that cool.
But not impossible:
In the sixth inning of Saturday’s Game 2, Mookie Betts choked out a potential Giants rally by nailing Wilmer Flores trying to go first-to-third on a single. The throw kept San Francisco from making it any closer than 6-2, and it would end at 9-2 with the Dodgers heading back to L.A. with the series tied up. It was a big moment, but it was also a cool moment. That spin! “That’s Mookie’s move,” marveled A.J. Pollock. “Just Mookie being Mookie,” said Julio Urías.
So, about that spin: Was it strictly necessary in order to gather the momentum needed for an 89-mph strike from right field, or was there perhaps a little bit of flair involved? Don’t ask Betts. “Sometimes you just do things that you don’t know why, or just kind of do it, and that was just one of those things.”
Betts, who battled a hip injury this summer but says he’s completely recovered, maybe took a small step back at the plate this year from his preceding MVP-contention seasons. Luckily for the Dodgers, especially in this short series pitting the two best teams in baseball, Betts is the sort of player who doesn’t need a bat in his hands to swing a series. Just ask last year’s Braves about this. Or this. Or this.
(Oh, he’s hitting too, because why not. In 13 plate appearances over three playoff games, Betts has five hits plus a walk and a stolen base.)
I do not know what this now-best-of-three series holds, but hopefully it’s more Mookie. Because playoff Mookie is best Mookie. “You know, I don’t get too excited, unless…” Betts trailed off. “No, that’s a lie, I do kind of get excited.”