Betts falls homer shy of cycle

Outfielder notches two triples, double, single vs. Astros

Betts falls homer shy of cycle

HOUSTON -- Mookie Betts got a look at a home run that would have given him the cycle, at least in an unconventional way, during the Red Sox's 6-2 win over the Astros on Friday night.

Betts rolled into third in the ninth inning knowing he could have tested the Astros' relay ability in a play for just the second Red Sox cycle in the past 20 years.

Given that it was a 5-1 game at the time, there would have been little consequence if Betts headed for home and an elusive inside-the-park home run.

"I didn't want to try anything," Betts said. "It was still a [one-swing] ballgame, so don't try anything stupid, play the game the way you're supposed to."

Betts played the way the Red Sox want him to play, launching two triples in a 4-for-5 night at the plate with an RBI and three runs scored. He's the first Boston player to record a pair of three-baggers in a game since Carl Crawford on May 26, 2011, against Detroit.

"You don't see that often, and two in one game is pretty special," manager John Farrell said.

Betts set the tone for his and Boston's relentless offensive night from the first at-bat. The right fielder ripped a leadoff triple into the gap. Houston's Collin McHugh never settled in against Boston's improving lineup.

"I just come out swinging and try to make him uncomfortable at least," Betts said. "We were able to put some good swings on some pitches and make him uncomfortable through those innings."

By the fourth inning, Betts was already 75 percent of the way to a cycle, which would have joined him with Brock Holt as the only Red Sox players with a cycle since 1996.

It was the latest promising effort in an increasingly hot streak for Betts, who has now had multiple hits in three consecutive games, with five extra-base hits and five RBIs in that stretch.

That's a sharp turn from the leadoff man's opening salvo to 2016. Betts was just 3-of-23 with three singles in the team's first five games. Farrell even said he contemplated moving the outfielder out of the leadoff spot.

Betts said he hasn't changed anything physically -- "maybe a little mentally, but not too much" -- and never had to lobby for his spot at the top of the order.

"Wherever they put me in the lineup is where I go hit," Betts said. "I have no say in that. If he wants to move me, he can. I just have to come play. I know I'm going to go through my ups and downs. Still have to stick with what I'm doing."

It worked in a big way, not to mention mildly historic. Betts was the first Boston player since Carl Yastrzemski to hit two triples, a double and record at least four hits in a single game, but it took an 18-inning game on April 16, 1967.

The Red Sox had Friday's game more or less sewn up well before the ninth when Betts laced his last triple and briefly considered turning for home. Per his locked in demeanor, Betts said it was more notable merely for beating Houston's shift.

"Try to make them play true and open up a couple more holes," he said. "With two strikes, they stayed put. Everyone else has been shading with two strikes.

"That's the most aggressive I've seen yet."

Betts could've easily been talking about his own night at the plate, his decision to leave the cycle waiting on third notwithstanding.

Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.