American League hits leader Trey Mancini continuing steady start to season for Orioles

On a night he extended his hitting streak to eight games and boosted his status as the American League’s leader in hits, Trey Mancini left his three-hit performance Friday more concerned more with an at-bat that ended unsuccessfully.

Mancini ended the Orioles’ 6-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Friday striking out looking on a frontdoor slider. He recorded hits 36, 37 and 38 on the young season with two opposite-field singles and a double to left-center, but it was the strikeout he most wanted to talk about afterward.

“I’m still honestly a little bitter about the last at-bat,” Mancini said. “I hate ending the game on a strikeout looking. Maybe the first time I’ve done that ever. Kind of a sour taste in my mouth about that.”

There’s been little else to consider sour in Mancini’s hot start. He ended play Friday hitting .349 with a .400 on-base percentage while slugging .615. As well as his place as the AL’s top hits-getter, he stands among league leaders in extra-base hits, runs, doubles and multi-hit games.

Even in 2017, when Mancini finished third in AL Rookie of the Year voting with a slashline of .293/.338/.488, he ended April with a .216 average. Starting out this well necessarily wasn’t a point of emphasis entering the year, Mancini said.

“I just wanted to help contribute every night and I didn’t want to think too long term,” Mancini said. “As far as personal goals, I don’t want to set numerical goals. I just want to go out and try to put good at-bats together. If you do that, at the end of the year you’ll be really happy with how you did personally. That is something I’ve learned. Not being too result-oriented and getting caught up in every at-bat. Because you can drive yourself crazy in this game if you do that.”

Although his .349 average would mark his highest for a month for his major league career — and more than .150 points higher than his average in any month of the 2018 season — Mancini declined to call this the most comfortable he’s felt at the plate during his three big league seasons.

“It’s hard to say,” Mancini said. “There have been times when you feel really good and really bad. That will happen throughout the season. No one goes through 162 feeling amazing, but you try to ride it out as long as you can, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

He’s done so while playing right field, a position he had played professionally in only two games before this year, with the occasional start as a left fielder, designated hitter and first baseman, where he was Friday.

While Mancini’s consistency on defense continues to impress first-year manager Brandon Hyde, so has his all-fields approach. Nine of Mancini’s 38 hits have gone to the opposite field, and his six home runs have gone to center or right.

“What I love about Trey is he uses the whole field,” Hyde said. “I think he’s so tough to pitch to because he’s so strong and it’s not one-sided. He drives the ball to all fields. Right now, he’s really covering the entire plate and swinging the bat well.”

In Friday’s first inning, former teammate Jonathan Schoop denied Mancini an infield hit on a broken-bat grounder with a smooth play at second base. It dropped Mancini’s first-inning average to .500. In years past, Mancini would let a play like that get in his head in subsequent at-bats, but this year, he’s keeping a consistent approach. He delivered hits his next three times to the plate.

“Definitely feel good overall,” he said. “Even if the first at-bat doesn’t go well, done a much better job this year shaking it off and not worrying about it. That’s how you’re successful in this game.”

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