With three hits Friday night against the Anaheim Angels, Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora took the American League batting lead. It would have meant more to him, however, if the outcome had been different.
"We lost," he said.
So much for living and dying over his statistics.
The Orioles were beaten, 10-9, after rallying from a nine-run deficit. The game lasted 10 innings. The disappointment went a lot further.
"I only pay attention to the score," Mora said. "And we lost."
Mora, who went 1-for-3 with a home run last night, is hitting .377 to lead Cleveland's Ron Belliard by seven points. He sat atop the league last year from June 9 until the final day before the All-Star break.
"I don't think about that," he said. "I just think about making the playoffs and winning games. That's more important. It's fun when you're hitting and you're helping the club win games."
Mora is comfortable at the plate and seeing the ball well, two requirements for any hitter who wants success. He's also free of the wrist and knee injuries that ruined his second half last season.
"I'm healthy," he said, "and when you're healthy you can do a lot of things and you don't have to worry about anything."
Bautista gets a start
Jose Bautista has become a favorite player of clubhouse attendants responsible for doing the laundry. His uniform rarely gets dirty.
Another game passed Friday without Bautista leaving the bench, but he started in right field last night and went 1-for-3 in his first appearance since April 30. His other start, also in right, came 10 days earlier.
"I didn't really know what to expect when I got here because I've never been in this situation before," said Bautista, a Rule 5 pick who must remain on the roster all season or be offered back to Pittsburgh.
"I decided I was just going to take it like it comes. So far, I'm trying to stay ready because you never know when they're going to need me to go out there. Anything can happen at any time. I've got to be ready at all times."
That's never been a challenge in the past, since Bautista always has played on a regular basis unless injured.
"It's a little bit of an adjustment, but I've been working hard in practice and taking a lot of hacks, coming in here early and hitting in the cages. I also hit in the cages during the games," he said. "I'm doing a lot of stuff. Hopefully that keeps me on my toes."
Bautista, who will play winter ball in the Dominican, hasn't been ignored by the Orioles. He works daily with hitting coach Terry Crowley, bench coach Sam Perlozzo and third base coach Tom Trebelhorn. Bautista can play multiple positions, so Perlozzo tutors him in the infield and Trebelhorn gives instruction in the outfield.
"They're constantly in touch with me," he said.
Man in the middle
Playing center between two inexperienced outfielders figured to keep Luis Matos busy last night.
Bautista is a natural third baseman with limited time in right, and Jerry Hairston made his first professional start in left.
"I'm going to play my same game. I can't change because we have two different outfielders," he said.
Matos met with both players before the game. "People think the outfield is easy," he said, "but it's not that easy."
Hairston was a catcher until his junior year in high school, when he moved to shortstop. The Orioles converted him to second base in 1998 at Single-A Frederick, a move he resisted.
"My manager said, 'This will get you to the majors this year,'" Hairston said, "and I was like, 'OK, let's go.'"