Leadoff, Jimmy Rollins said about a month ago, is as much a state of mind as it an actuality. ``That’s something that I’ve learned,’’ he said before a game in New York in early June. ``Technically you only lead off an inning once or twice a game. But you’re always hitting with that mentality.’’
Your hitting also always carries with it that mentality. No outs, one out, even two outs -- ``Things start happening differently when you have him on the bases,’’ Shane Victorino said after Sunday’s 2-0 victory over the Mets. A leadoff guy's success eases the whole lineup and excites the crowd, makes the other guys nervous too -- even with two outs. I liken it to a fast-break dunk in basketball or a running back breaking a few tackles to gain a few more yards. It's about creating momentum, even psychological momentum.
Rollins led off innings twice Sunday, and each at-bat led to runs. The first was his home run on the Johan Santana’s second pitch. The second was a Chase Utley home run, after Rollins struck out looking on a 3-2 pitch.
Rollins fouled off a few pitches on that at-bat, was caught looking eventually on what seemed to be ball four. He saw pitches, he wasted some good ones and it can be argued – even in the case of a seasoned pitcher like Santana – he frustrated the pitcher at least a little in the process. Is it coincidence that Utley hit an 0-2 pitch deep into the rightfield seats? Hmm.
Rollins also walked on a 3-2 count, and singled. ``He’s seeing the ball good,’’ manager Charlie Manuel said. ``And I think he’s loading up a little bit better than he realizes.’’
Said Victorino, ``To me, leadoff is a position where, when you’re feeling great at the plate, you see everything, you can swing at everything. And then there’s times where you’re like, OK, let me take a `take’ approach… When you’re not going good, it’s like `I can’t take this first pitch because I don’t want to put myself in the hole.’
``When I feel good, I don’t change my approach. Somebody may think that. They say, then why are you taking so many pitches? Cause they’re balls.’’
Rollins is not talking much about his recent resurgence, and maybe for good reason. He seemed to be coming out of his season-long funk during the last series with the Mets in early June. Let’s see what happens against non-New York teams this week.