The noise created by Jordan Westburg’s major league debut, in the pouring rain at Camden Yards, drowned out everything else. However, a stat from another infielder shouldn’t go ignored.
Jorge Mateo walked twice.
Not a big deal?
Mateo has played in 330 major league games, accumulated 1,004 plate appearances, and never drawn more than one walk except for Monday night.
“I’ve been trying to work on not chasing, trying to focus on hitting pitches that are in the zone, and trying to find pitches that I can do harder contact with,” he said yesterday via interpreter Brandon Quinones. “So, it’s just a matter of continuing to work on those things and trying not to swing at pitches outside the zone.”
Change was necessary with Mateo following a .347/.395/.667 first month with a .128/.165/.151 May and .204/.259/.259 June heading into last night, when he went 0-for-2 and was removed for a pinch-hitter.
Mateo saw eight pitches from Reds left-hander Brandon Williamson in the second inning Monday, getting ahead 2-0 and 3-1 in the count, fouling off two fastballs and a slider, and taking a four-seamer outside the zone.
Jake Wong, making his major league debut, also fell behind 2-0 to Mateo, got a pair of called strikes, and missed with a fastball and curve.
A new individual walk record was born. No one noticed until yesterday.
“In reality, it isn’t really something that I pay attention to too much,” he said. “I just try to focus on doing the little things to get those results.”
Mateo has accumulated 51 walks over parts of four seasons, including 27 last year in 150 games. He had three in his last two games before last night.
Prior to that little stretch, Mateo had walked once the entire month.
If a player can be walk streaky, it’s Mateo.
He drew one in each of the first two games of the season in Boston, and three in the first five. He walked in each of his first four games in 2022 and went 13 in a row before the next. He totaled one in 33 games.
Mateo reached via a walk in each of his first three September games in 2021.
"Good things happen,” manager Brandon Hyde said on Sunday, “when he makes contact and puts the ball in play."
Or when he just takes a walk.
“It’s very important,” said co-hitting coach Ryan Fuller. “We’re always preaching getting on base. Obviously for him with his speed, regardless of if it’s a single, a double, a walk, we just want him on the basepaths to go get another bag and create havoc. But we’re always preaching staying in the zone with him.”
Mateo began yesterday with a .091 average on outside pitches that ranked third-lowest in the majors with a minimum 50 plate appearances, according to STATS.
“We know that they’re going to be attacking that outer third with sliders and fastballs,” Fuller said, “so just understanding where the edge of the plate is, what’s the one that we can hit, what’s the one that we’ve got to leave. And he’s been doing a really good job of taking the prep in the cage out to the game the last few days.”
* Going back to the ninth inning of Saturday’s game against the Mariners, Mateo was attempting to steal second base on his own when Cedric Mullins hit a popup behind home plate. Mateo was doubled off first base, and the teams headed for extras, where the Orioles won it in the 10th on Ryan McKenna’s home run.
It wasn’t a hit-and-run or anything else. Just an attempted steal and maybe losing track of the ball.
Mateo was doubled off second base earlier this season after breaking for third on a line drive to left. But he earned high praise, from manager Brandon Hyde and MLB Network, after scoring from first base Sunday on Anthony Bemboom’s bloop single down the right field line.
* Prior to the Reds series, the Orioles held the majors best average against breaking balls this season at .252.
It isn’t happening by accident.
“We love doing hard things in the cage,” Fuller said.
“These guys, if they see that a guy has a really good slider or a curveball, we train the crap out of it in the cage every day. So, these guys are getting a ton of exposure to breaking ball shapes. Whether it’s a lefty breaking ball coming to their back foot or a righty breaking ball moving away, they’re prepared for it. We kind of think of, you’re trained to go out there, you’ve already done the hard work in the cage, and then it’s awesome to see it kind of show out in the games each night.”
Rookie Jordan Westburg's second major league hit last night came on a sweeper.