BOSTON -- The best of Mookie Betts was on display in the first inning Friday night at Fenway Park, as the star right fielder demonstrated why he's one of the league's most dynamic players while helping the Red Sox to a 9-3 victory over the Rays.
While many fans were just settling into their seats, Rays No. 2 hitter Lucas Duda stung one to deep right. Betts was off at the crack of the bat, reached out his glove in full stride and brought it in for a thrilling out.
In the bottom of the first, Betts smacked a 2-1 slider from Chris Archer to the opposite field and curled it inside Pesky's Pole for a three-run homer, his 19th of the season but first since Aug. 3.
Though Betts went to the shortest portion of the Fenway Park outfield to end his homer drought at 120 at-bats, it was still an impressive piece of hitting and a sign that he's beginning to emerge from a slump that started in late July.
"To hit a slider inside the foul pole down the right-field line, that's not an easy thing to do," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "Mookie, when he's in this type of spot offensively, he makes such an impact, and we certainly saw that in the first.
"I think he's letting the ball travel a bit deeper in the zone, and he's so quick with his hands, he can let a ball travel deep. I know he's getting a heavy dose of sliders right now. Hopefully just by allowing the ball to travel a little deeper, he's able to see that pitch better."
Of the 73 homers Betts has hit in his career, this was just the second to go to right field and only the third to be hit to the right of second base.
"I knew I got it pretty good, so it wasn't slicing too much," Betts said. "I wasn't sure if it was going to make it to the pole, but I kept running, thought it had a chance, and fortunately it went over."
Though Betts hasn't produced at the same level this year (.262/.342/.438) as he did in last year's breakout (.318/.363/.534), he could be saving his best hot streak for the most important time of the year.
"I think I'm coming around, getting a little better day by day," said Betts. "But it's going to take more than me for us to win. I can do my part. I think we have a really good team that's all kind of clicking, and we're all doing our parts."
For Betts, the heroics come from all parts of the game.
In the fourth, he raced into the right-field corner to corral a foul ball from the stands off the bat of Logan Morrison. Though several fans had their hands out in hopes of bringing home a souvenir, Betts ultimately came up with it.
"I've learned that as much as the fans want to catch it while it's coming down, they'll start getting out of the way, so as the seas kind of cleared, I was able to go up and catch it," said Betts.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.