As Trey Mancini spent the first half of last season bearing the weight of both his own and the Orioles' struggles, he'd have done anything for the mindset — and luck — he's enjoyed over the first week of this season.
"I'm just not really thinking much up there," Mancini said after his second home run of the season capped a two-hit, two-RBI day in the Orioles' 6-5 win over the Toronto Blue Jays Monday. "I feel really relaxed. ... Honestly, just taking a really deep breath before you go up there physically does relax you. I know it sounds dumb, but it works for me. Even if it doesn't, I at least think it does, so I'm going to keep doing it."
That's the simple mindset, along with a refined approach, that has Mancini batting .500 over the Orioles' improbable four-game stretch to start the season, with a mixture of the power that has defined his entire career and a little luck that he never cashed in a season ago.
Beginning in the first inning on Opening Day, when he hit a ground ball against the shift that was scored an infield hit but struck base runner Jonathan Villar for the third out of the inning and killed an Orioles rally, everything's been coming up Mancini this season. He had an infield hit on a well-hit ball down the third-base line, and his RBI double in the sixth inning was a missile to center field.
He had an infield single to third base in Saturday's win, and chipped in to the Orioles' three-run first inning with another Baltimore-chop single Sunday before homering to Yankee Stadium's Monument Park in the third inning.
He followed that with another infield single in the Orioles' four-run first inning Monday in Toronto, and added his second home run of the year in the seventh inning that proved the difference in the game.
"He's got the chopper to third going — he's got three of those," manager Brandon Hyde said. "But he's swinging the bat so good. He is so strong. To be able to drive the ball like he can to the middle of the field is really impressive, and he's taking great at-bats, playing good defense. Made a sliding catch [in the third inning] — playing great baseball."
While it's hard to account for more than an infield single per game, the authoritative contact is something that has been a hallmark of Mancini's time with the Orioles. The .545 batting average on balls in play isn't sustainable, but not much about his plate discipline rate stats is different, suggesting that at least early, Mancini is a similar player at the plate in all but one aspect.
"Having a plan is probably the biggest thing," Mancini said. "I think sometimes I can get in the habit of trying to cover every pitch in the whole strike zone. You can't do that at this level. I'm just picking parts of the plate, certain pitches, and I'm going after them. That's kind of just been my thing, just focusing on my breathing, relaxing up there and just kind of waiting and being patient."
Mancini's heat maps on baseballsavant.com, which uses MLB Statcast data, suggest he is forsaking the outer half of the plate and covering inside pitches that he can turn on and get the barrel on. Opposite-field power has been his forte, but this seems a more up-the-middle approach that's paying dividends.
A calmer swing is helping too, he said.
"I sometimes get in the habit of having a lot of moving parts, and everything's not really connected, so I've been trying to simplify a few things. So it's just kind of having everything be in unison during my swing," Mancini said.
Wednesday, 4:07 p.m.
Radio: 105.7 FM
O’s starter: Nate Karns (0-0, 0.00)
Jays starter: Matt Shoemaker (1-0, 0.00)