DETROIT – What is the exact date and time when it begins to even out?
Rough estimates are accepted and appreciated.
Isn’t that the reminder preached to frustrated hitters who don’t think they’ll ever catch another break? The latest tough out, so cruel at times that it physically hurts, is balanced by soft singles and streaks built on kinder fortune.
Ryan Mountcastle tries to laugh about it. The trademark grin is the most he can muster at this point.
The lucky hits need to catch up.
Mountcastle came within inches, maybe less, of giving the Orioles a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning Thursday night. Adley Rutschman led off with a single and Mountcastle drove a cutter from Joey Wentz to deep right field. Calculated at 103.6 mph off the bat with a 32-degree launch angle.
Kerry Carpenter retreated to the warning track, to the fence, and made a leaping catch.
Statcast described the at-bat as “flying out sharply.” It cut deep.
The Orioles fell behind 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth and scored five times in the seventh for another comeback win. That’s the salve for Mountcastle’s wounds. The only way to feel better about it.
Carpenter had to leave the game after bending at the waist and grimacing, his arm hanging at his side. Tigers manager A.J. Hinch and an athletic trainer met him in right field. Mountcastle circled back to the dugout.
One player said afterward, “The guy dislocates his shoulder and makes the catch.” Sympathy pain for Mountcastle, who later just shook his head at this locker.
I’m not obsessive over expected batting average (xBA). What ultimately matters is what you’ve done. Baseball doesn’t have separate standings, like a secret menu, ranking teams by what they almost did. But there’s merit to it, and Mountcastle’s full story can’t be told otherwise.
It follows him like a toddler.
Mountcastle posted a .250 average last season in 145 games, but his xBA was .277, per Baseball Savant. He's heading into today's doubleheader in Detroit with a .229 average and .438 slugging percentage, but also a .304 xBA and .598 xSLG.
His average 93.4 exit velocity and 48.8 hard hit percentage are the highest of his career. His sweet-spot percentage is 41.3. But the home run robbery brought another sour look to his face, just like the many occasions at Camden Yards when a fly ball to left would have cleared the fence in any year prior to 2022.
Mountcastle throws back his head or lowers it, chin to chest. Sometimes, his arms are spread. A cartoon bubble above his head would read, "Are you kidding me?" And that's the G-rated copy.
Easily overlooked was the two-out walk Thursday night in the seventh that preceded Anthony Santander’s two-run homer, only the fourth drawn by Mountcastle this season and the first since April 7. He had two on Opening Day in Boston, though he may have been too cold to swing.
Mountcastle’s 57.8 swing percentage yesterday was seventh highest in the majors with a minimum of 50 plate appearances. His 48.3 chase percentage was fifth.
Adley Rutschman was tied with Cleveland’s Steven Kwan for lowest swing percentage on the first pitch at 6.1. His 20 walks led the American League.
No one's patience has been tested more than Mountcastle's.