SEATTLE — First baseman Trey Mancini did what he does so often in the first inning Sunday, and the Orioles pitching staff did what it has done over and over again all season.
Mancini hit his eighth first-inning home run of the year and improved on what are some otherworldly statistics at the start of games, but that was largely overshadowed by another pitching meltdown that led to still another embarrassing loss.
The Mariners exploded for eight runs in the third inning and the Orioles headed home from the West Coast feeling a lot more blue than orange with just one victory on the rough seven-game swing.
"It's not great,’’ Mancini said. “[Saturday], that was a great win. We had great energy all game. I had a really good feeling about yesterday's game. [Andrew] Cashner had everybody up in here and ready to go as he always does. It was a really good win and I was hoping it was going to give us some momentum going forward, but unfortunately that's not what happened. So off day tomorrow and hopefully we can clear our heads and get it going from there.”
The thing is, Mancini always seems to be able to maintain that momentum. He’s got a .419 batting average in the first inning and nearly half of his 17 home runs have come in that first at-bat. His slugging percentage in the first inning is an amazing .887 after the shot he hit off Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi on Sunday.
"I don't have too good of an explanation for it,” Mancini said. “He had some good stuff and I was just trying to stay right center off him. He was staying low with his fastball, so I wasn't trying to do too much and they he just kind of hung that curve ball to me there.”
It’s not that Mancini isn’t an imposing hitter in every at-bat. He ranks seventh in the American League with a .305 batting average and fifth with a .928 OPS. He’s also ranks highly in several other categories, but couldn’t tell you why those numbers are skewed toward the first inning.
Perhaps, it would be logical to conclude that Mancini simply puts together a very good game plan against each game’s starting pitcher and gives himself an advantage before the cat-and-mouse game of adjustment takes place in ensuing at-bats.
"That could be it,” he said. “I think I've done a better job this year of kind of relaxing going up my first at-bat sometimes. Especially last year early on at times, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get a hit the first at-bat or swing at pitches I probably couldn't handle.
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“This year, I'm waiting to get into a good count and if I get to two strikes, so be it, I'm going to battle in the first inning and all the innings, but you do have more time to prepare throughout the day for the starting pitcher.”