In the 2018 World Series, the Dodgers relied so heavily on matchups that Bellinger — who was rookie of the year the previous season and M.V.P. the next — started only two of five games against the Red Sox. In the Game 5 clincher that year, which included a homer by Betts for Boston, Hernandez hit third for the Dodgers after not even starting the previous two games.
Now the Dodgers have a much more settled lineup, with Betts, Seager, Bellinger, Turner, Max Muncy, A.J. Pollock and Smith all in the order for 10 of the 11 postseason games. The Dodgers did not exactly plan that, Roberts said, but responded to the players’ performance.
“The players have earned that,” he said. “When lefties are hitting lefties and righties are hitting righties, they’ve earned that. And in ’18 there’s a couple of guys that didn’t show that. I think we would have beat the Red Sox if we would have had Mookie Betts.”
Betts, 28, has not homered yet this postseason, but he is hitting .311 with a .407 on-base percentage and flashing his usual standout defense. The Red Sox traded him in February rather than risk losing him in free agency, but the Dodgers made sure Betts never reached the open market, signing him in July to a 12-year, $365 million contract extension through 2032.
“I love the coaching staff, the players, the front office — everything about the Dodgers is winning,” Betts said. “That’s in my DNA, so that’s why I chose to stay here.”
The Rays do not compete for expensive veterans like Betts. Their prorated payroll this season was just $28.2 million, higher than only Pittsburgh and Baltimore, according to Spotrac, which tracks teams’ financial data. The Dodgers ranked second at $107.9 million, trailing only the Yankees.