Sox need Mookie raking to be at their best

Sox need Mookie raking to be at their best

NEW YORK -- Mookie Betts is known for his lightning-quick hands at the plate, but hitting coach Chili Davis thinks the All-Star right fielder needs to start trusting them again to get back to being the type of impact hitter the Red Sox need him to be down the stretch.

Of late, the 24-year-old Betts has been in one of the most prolonged funks of his career, looking nothing like the player who finished second to Mike Trout in the American League's Most Valuable Player Award voting last year.

After going 1-for-3 with a walk in Saturday's 5-1 loss to the Yankees, Betts has a line of .211/.299/.298 with one homer and 17 RBIs in a 142-at-bat stretch that started on July 23. During the rut, Betts has seen his average dip from .280 to .262.

"I don't know if numbers are on his mind or the feeling isn't there, but he hasn't been the same hitter he's been the last couple of years. And not because of lack of ability," said Davis. "I think this has been a [tough] period for him, and I know it's baffling and frustrating for him, but we've got to get him back to trusting the hands."

When Betts has that bat whipping through the zone, he goes on the type of tear that can change the complexion of an entire lineup that no longer has David Ortiz's monster production to lean on.

"What do I see? He's probably thinking a little too much," said Davis. "Let me put it this way: His hands are his assets. They're always going to be his assets. He's not a 6-5, 270-pound guy like Aaron Judge, that misses a ball and can knock it out of the ballpark. The bat speed that he has with those hands creates the exit velocity that he has."

The good news for Betts is that the Red Sox still hold a 4 1/2-game lead in the American League East, and they can earn a split of the four-game series with the Yankees behind ace Chris Sale Sunday night.

And if Betts can get hot, that lead in the division could increase over the final four weeks of the season and create momentum heading into October.

"With everything he's gone through, he works his tail off and hopefully something we say or something he feels will click him right back in and it will be the right time for us," said Davis. "Him getting hot is never going to be the wrong time for us."

Just as he stays even-keeled when he is hot, Betts is doing the same during this tough stretch.

"Just kind of going along with the ride," said Betts. "Just doing what I can to help the team win, and that's all I'm focused on."

Betts remains an elite defender in right and has speed on the bases, so he can still help the Red Sox every time he's on the field. But when he's hot at the plate, he is the whole package, or "the playmaker" as teammate Jackie Bradley Jr. likes to call him.

"Maybe they're pitching him a little different and he sees it and he recognizes it," said Davis. "They still have to make pitches. I don't care how good they think they are on that mound, they still have to make pitches. With hands like that, when he trusts them, velocity does not matter. You can't beat that kid."

Manager John Farrell doesn't want to pin too much on Betts.

"We need all our guys," said Farrell. "We've got a full month here remaining. I know Mookie continues to work at trying to gain some consistency, in terms of timing at the plate. There's, at times, pitches we've seen in the past where he's turned on the ball a little bit more. That might not be there right now, but still, he's a key component to our offense. And there's a number of guys that fall into that same category."

Back in late July, Farrell gave Andrew Benintendi a couple of days off when he was slumping. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts has been in a drought lately and didn't start the last two games. Would Farrell think about a similar short break for Betts, who has started 131 of Boston's 135 games?

"I haven't gone to that point. He impacts the game so many different ways, and the defensive side of it is a key component to it, and when he does get on base, he's a threat, obviously," Farrell said. "He's been a major player for us."

"Everyone goes through a little downtime in the game, and he's handled it well," said Davis. "He's out there trying to compete, and that's all you can ask of him."

Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.