Commentary: Mookie Betts turns 'Beat L.A.' chants into 'Repeat L.A.' shouts with clutch Game 5

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San Francisco, CA - October 14: Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates after a single during the eighth inning.
Mookie Betts celebrates after hitting a single during the eighth inning in the Dodgers' 2-1 win over the Giants in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

On to the next round, and eight victories from the Mookie Bowl.

The heroes of Thursday’s victory will be feted among generations of Dodgers fans yet to be born.

Bobby Thomson broke the Dodgers’ hearts in 1951; Cody Bellinger returned the favor 70 years later. Max Scherzer was Orel Hershiser for a day, an ace emerging from the bullpen to clinch an October victory.

The San Francisco Giants and their 107 victories, slayed and defeated. This October classic, a thriller in every sense, belongs to the Dodgers.

“When you have two fan bases that don’t like each other,” Scherzer said, “players will respect the hell out of each other, play the game right, but just absolutely want to beat the crap out of each other.”

The chance to repeat remains alive, and the man most responsible for keeping it alive for most of the game was the one who could win his third World Series in four years.

Mookie Betts won in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox, and in 2020 with the Dodgers. The Red Sox and Dodgers are each four victories from facing off in the 2021 World Series.

“This,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, “is when stars are stars.

“And he’s a superstar.”

After seven consecutive division championships without a World Series to show for it, the Dodgers went all-in for 2020. They traded for Betts, and they agreed to pay him almost $400 million, nearly twice as much as they ever had guaranteed to a player.

Mookie Betts steals second base ahead of the tag by San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford during the sixth inning.
Mookie Betts steals second base ahead of the tag by San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford during the sixth inning. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Talk about a return on investment: In 2020, Betts sparked the Dodgers’ first championship in 32 years. In 2021, he silenced the “Beat L.A.” crowd so handily that the sound of triumph in San Francisco on Thursday night was a small but mighty band of fans behind the Dodgers dugout chanting “Repeat L.A.”

They had a few more chants in store, one of them more of a happy chorus than an insistent yell: “Moo-kie! Moo-kie!”

See, before all those heroes could take their star turn, Betts was the single man standing between Logan Webb and invincibility. While the Dodgers deployed two openers, then a starter, then two relievers, then closed with another starter, San Francisco went old school: Give the ball to your best pitcher and get out of the way.

Betts led off the game against Webb and singled. The Dodgers did not get another hit until the fourth inning, when Betts singled again. The Dodgers did not get another hit until the sixth inning, when Betts singled again.

The Dodgers had not scored at that point.

Neither team had.

The tension rose with each passing minute. Each opportunity could be the last. Each team had a parade of premium arms awaiting deployment for the final innings.

So Betts went old school, in a way that would have made Maury Wills proud. In games the Giants had won in this series, they had scored all of their runs on home runs. Surely they had a home run in them.

With the game scoreless in the sixth inning, Betts could not afford to wait.

He did not run much this season, troubled by a hip injury. He stole 10 bases in the 60-game season last year, 10 in the 162-game season this year.

He stole second, and he scored from there on a hit that Corey Seager hustled into a double.

“We can hit home runs with the best of them,” Betts said. “But I think it’s more important to know we can win these 2-1, 1-0 games.”

The Giants did get their home run, in the bottom of the sixth, from Darin Ruf. In the eighth, Betts got his fourth hit. In the ninth, Bellinger singled home the winning run.

But consider this: The Dodgers beat the team with the best record in baseball, largely without the Turners. Trea Turner hit .136 in the series. Justin Turner hit .050.

Betts hit .450.

For all the angst in Boston over the Betts trade — who gets rid of a generational player voluntarily? —– the populace is calm now. In the year after they traded him, ostensibly to rebuild, the Red Sox could get back to the World Series.

They are four victories away. So are the Dodgers. The Giants are out, in large part thanks to Betts. As the crowd filed out of Oracle Park, a mournful public address announcer reminded fans they could look forward to the 2022 Fan Fest.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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