Mookie Betts' first half setting the table for unique career year with Dodgers

July 4, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mookie Betts (50)
July 4, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Mookie Betts (50) / Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If you've been watching the Dodgers recently, you know that they've been trying to catch the Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West. With inconsistencies and injuries plaguing the pitching staff, the Dodgers needed extra help from a lineup that had been producing runs at a high level all year long, but needed to hit another gear. That's when Mookie Betts stepped up in a major way.

Heading into a weekend series with the Astros on June 23, the Dodgers found themselves in third place in the NL West, four games behind the Diamondbacks for first, and a half-game behind the Giants for second.

Betts started off the first game of that series with a bang, launching a leadoff 420-foot home run to put the Dodgers on top 1-0. He ended the night 1-for-3 with that solo homer and a sacrifice fly, giving him two RBI out of the Dodgers' three runs in that game. The home run was a sign of things to come, as Betts would get within mere inches of back-to-back nights with leadoff blasts, only to be robbed by Houston's Corey Julks. Betts would go on to lead off the Sunday showdown with the Astros with yet another home run.

Betts went 0-for-5 in the first game of the Dodgers' road trip, and his OPS on the season dropped to .852, but the seeds he planted in the Houston series would soon come to fruition. In the next four games, Betts proceeded to make just two outs in 17 plate appearances. He went 15 straight plate appearances without making an out during those four games as well. In those 15 plate appearances, he tallied three home runs, four doubles, seven walks and a single, with nine RBI. Despite all of that production from the leadoff spot, the Dodgers went 2-2 in that span against the bottom-feeding Rockies and Royals.

Betts continued his individual production into July, posting a 1.391 OPS in the eight games leading into the All-Star break with four home runs, five doubles and six walks with six RBI against the Royals, Pirates and Angels. But just how unprecedented was that stretch? His OPS in the last 14 games (before Saturday's first-half finale when Betts led off the game with a homer) is the second-highest OPS in any 14-game span of his entire career. Yes, the 2018 AL MVP and six-time All-Star has only had one better stretch of 14 games. That one spanned from mid-April to early May 2018, during which he posted a 1.528 OPS in those 20 hits (four singles, five doubles and a whopping 11 home runs), five walks, one sacrifice fly and 16 RBI. This season, his hot streak (from June 23 until July 7) included a 1.519 OPS with 18 hits (two singles, eight doubles and eight home runs), 12 walks, four sacrifice flies and 18 RBI.

To try and quantify this on a non-Mookie Betts scale, it should be noted that he's one of only four players who have a 14-game stretch with a 1.500 OPS or better this season. The other stretches satisfying that criteria were done by Shohei Ohtani in June (a month Ohtani dominated as a whole with a .394 AVG, 1.444 OPS, 15 HR, 29 RBI and 25 XBH), Aaron Judge (who went 20/50 with 10 HR and 15 walks at the end of May) and, believe it or not, Max Muncy (who went 15/40 with 10 HR and 13 walks toward the end of April). League-wide, Mookie's success is well-documented, but this recent stretch has also helped the Dodgers close the gap in the divisional race at an important part of the season.

With his individual success, and Freddie Freeman returning to his norms after a few weeks that were subpar by his standards, the Dodgers have been getting more consistent run production, and it has led to more wins. The Dodgers went 10-5 heading into the break, winning their last four in a row, and have tied the Diamondbacks for first in the division while remaining 2 1/2 games ahead of San Francisco in third.

If Betts can continue this production at the top of the order, not only will the Dodgers continue to surge offensively, but he will insert himself into the upper echelon of the NL MVP conversation as well, if he hasn't already done so.