Mercado doubles to record his first MLB hit

May 19th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The pressure of recording your first Major League hit is like a black cloud that follows every rookie once they reach the big stage. But after three games, the weight has been lifted off Oscar Mercado’s shoulders.

In the fifth inning of the Indians 4-1 victory over the Orioles on Saturday at Progressive Field, the Tribe’s young outfielder served an 83.1 mph slider into left-center field. He raced around first base and pulled up at second, clapping his hands twice, hitting his chest and pointing up at the sky. For the first time in his career, the 24-year-old’s batting average was above .000.

“Oh, it was awesome,” Mercado said. “It was like numbing, because you always -- like your debut -- it's something you dream of. It was awesome. I'm glad we were able to come out winning, too.”

Where’s mom and dad

After looking over at third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, pointing in celebration of the extra-base hit, his eyes wandered over slightly to the left, searching for his family in the crowd.

“Yeah, they were excited,” Mercado said. “First thing I did was look over to where they were sitting, see what their reaction would be. That was something I really wanted to see. ... They were up and jumping and cheering pretty loud. You could tell they were excited.”

Of the multiple items Mercado received after the game, the most special one was the ball that skidded across the left-center-field grass, marking the first big moment of his young career. It sat with him briefly in his locker after the game before making its way to his mother and father, who would be flying back to Tampa with it on Sunday.

Ramirez with the assist

It hadn’t been long since Mercado got the call, going hitless in just five at-bats before securing his first knock, but the outfielder decided to switch things up before his at-bat in the fifth inning.

“I actually used one of Jose Ramirez's bats,” Mercado said. “He was like, 'Hey, use this.' I was like, 'All right.' So he let me have it and I was like, 'Hey, thank you.' He was like, 'I'll get you a couple more.'"

Showcase the speed

Mercado didn’t have too long to soak in the moment after his double, as Francisco Lindor quickly followed with a single to left just two pitches later. The speedy outfielder took off and was able to score with ease, averaging 28.1 feet per second, which is faster than the Major League average (27 ft/sec).

“It’s a nice feeling, that’s a really nice feeling,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You can’t teach that. I mean, the kid’s just, he can run. He’s got a beautiful stride.”

“I almost tripped,” Mercado said. “Stepped on the back part of the bag [at third] and almost tripped. ... No, that would not have been good. I would have cost Frankie an RBI.”

Sense of relief

Mercado started to feel like he was getting closer to obtaining his first hit after lacing a 97.3 mph line drive directly at third baseman Rio Ruiz.

“I was just talking to [Tyler] Naquin and I was [saying] it was crazy, because I was feeling really good the last few [at-bats] but I just felt like I needed to get that hit out of the way,” Mercado said.

Now that the black cloud has dissipated, Mercado thinks that he’ll be able to settle in at the plate the same way he was able to in the Minor Leagues.

“It's going to help a lot, kind of like getting the first game out of the way, first game jitters, even after that first game, I just felt normal,” Mercado said. “I just figured the hits are going to come when they come. I felt great.

“I felt like I'm taking deep breaths and letting the game come to me a little bit instead of trying to do too much. It feels good to be settling down and understanding it's the same game, just at the highest stage. So you just want to do what you've been doing and what got you here."