Red Sox have emerging star in Mookie Betts

While the Yankees limp to the finish line, the Red Sox have played well down the stretch. In 11 innings last night, they prevailed 9-5 over the Bronx Bombers to win the first three games of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium. It was their sixth straight victory.

A big reason why is the emergence of starting center fielder Mookie Betts. The 22-year old former 2011 fifth round pick has developed into a superb outfielder who combines speed with power along with Gold Glove caliber defense. His game-ending catch robbing Chris Davis of a home run in a Boston 8-0 shutout of Baltimore last week is probably the web gem of the season. A play in which he leaped over the right field fence at Fenway Park and leaned against it while grabbing the ball with his glove out-stretched maintaining his balance to preserve Rich Hill’s shutout. It was remarkable.

When Betts isn’t robbing hitters, he’s busy tormenting opposing pitchers with his quick bat. He hit two homers Wednesday making it three in two games against the Yankees. That included a game-tying solo shot off Dellin Betances in the eighth. He added another in a four-run 11th. In the three Red Sox wins, he’s 6-for-15 with three dingers, six extra base hits, four runs scored and four RBI’s. Tonight, he’ll face C.C. Sabathia. He’s only faced him twice going hit-less with a RBI.

In only his second season, Betts is an exciting ballplayer who should be great for the next decade. Originally a middle infielder, he was shifted to the outfield last year at Pawtucket. With second base blocked by Dustin Pedroia, Betts adjusted well while continuing to hit at a .335 clip at Triple-A before getting recalled last year. In 52 games at the big league level, he hit .291 with five homers, 18 RBI’s and seven stolen bases with a .368 on-base percentage. He’s carried that forward. Over 141 games in his first full year, he’s batting .296 with 18 dingers, 76 RBI’s with 92 runs and 20 steals. Betts also has 42 doubles and eight triples giving him 68 extra base hits. He also carries a .344 OBP and .488 slugging giving him a combined .832 OBP.

Over the last 10 games, Betts has reached base in every single one and has hit in nine recording six multi-hit games while scoring 12 runs at the top of the order. He’s just a superb player. Still new to the Yankees/Sox rivalry, Betts already has six home runs and 15 RBI’s against the Yanks in 23 games with a .287 average. The scary aspect is he turns 23 on Oct. 7 following the season. He should only get better. The rest of the American League should take note.

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Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.

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