Dusty Baker keeps faith in Trey Mancini’s meltdown

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NEW YORK — Trey Mancini watched the mound inside Yankee Stadium and threw lines into the outfield.

On the big screen, Aaron Judge’s 2022 regular season highlights were replayed as Game 3 of the American League Championship Series drew closer.

That’s why Mancini became Astro.

Big games.

October.

Bigger games and the ALCS in New York, with the World Series in sight for the road team.

Mancini was back in Dusty Baker’s lineup for Game 3, despite being late in the season and struggling in the playoffs.

The Astros started a perfect 5-0 record in the playoffs. But as good as they have been, they are a more dangerous team with Mancini cracking fly balls and lengthening Baker’s formation.

“I just hope and feel he’s about to go wild with some big hits for us,” Baker said Saturday, as the Astros tried to pick up two wins and end the Yankees’ season before to return to Houston.

Mancini admitted before the game that his swing mechanics went haywire towards the end of August. After a great start with his new team, he disappointed over the past two months and started the playoffs 0 for 6.

Game 3 was his first appearance in the ALCS. Mancini lined up a deep volley to left center field in the top of the second inning, nearly reaching the 399-foot mark before ending up with a long out. The hard crack was a reminder of what Mancini could still bring to the Astros if he could suddenly warm up as November approached.

“Trey has been a huge business acquisition for us. He was one of the guys in the league, I think a lot of teams had identified him as someone who could help an organization keep winning in stride,” said Lance McCullers Jr., who will start the Game 4 for the Astros. “As soon as we got him, I think his first hits were homers. He will tell you that he did not play as well as he would like. But the beautiful part of October – the beautiful part of these huge moments – is that he has the opportunity to erase all of that. He has the ability to go big for us (Saturday). He’s lined up against probably one of the best pitchers in baseball, if not the best.

Asked about the playoff struggles of Jose Altuve — who went 0-for-25 early in Game 3 — and Mancini, Baker responded with a personal, belief-driven response.

The Astros know that Altuve will eventually hit, hit and hit, like he always has before.

For Mancini to regain his stroke and help the Astros in the final days of the 2022 season, the team must also believe in their biggest acquisition at the trade deadline.

“Belief is key and trust in your players,” Baker said. “I know in my past, like I had a bad knee and fell on my face after a major trade, which I was one of the main guys in the business in (1976). And then in 1977, ( Tommy) Lasorda told me that I was – everyone was on me in (Los Angeles) and why I was still playing. But Lasorda said, “Hey man, I believe in Dusty from what he has done in the past, and I’ve seen him play, and he’s my left fielder.” And I responded with that belief.

Mancini is a career .265 hitter with 125 home runs and a .787 OPS since 2016. He knows the Yankees and their stadium. During Games 1 and 2, he aided his new team with advice he acquired during his AL East days with Baltimore.

As Game 3 and a return to the Astros’ designated hitter approached, the ex-Oriole praised his current teammates and focused on any pitches to come.

The Astros have won their first five playoff games this season, with Mancini either hitless or not playing.

If the big deadline bat goes off, Mancini’s team will be even harder to defeat.

He was loved in Baltimore.

He can still help change the Astros’ season.

“Everyone has been amazing since the second I got here. I’m so happy to be here with this team,” Mancini said. “Even though I’ve struggled lately, right now none of that matters. You have to look ahead. In the offseason, in the future, you can look back, think about what went wrong, to what went right sometimes, all that stuff. But right now we’re in the ALCS. And you can’t dwell on any of your at-bats in the past. All you have to do is prepare for what’s next. That’s all you can do.

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