With or without the requisite plate appearances, Omar Infante’s run at the National League batting title is shaping up as a showdown with the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez.
Infante’s fellow Venezuela native used three hits Monday – his fifth three-hit game in the first six games of September – to move ahead of Infante .340 to .339 among NL leaders heading into play Tuesday.
Infante has his work cut out for him not just trying to get the requisite plate appearances of 502 – he’ll need four-plus per game and maybe a cushion in case he has to take an 0-fer if he falls short – but competing with a player who plays half his games in Coors Field. Not that he’s taking it that way.
“I’m really happy for him,” Infante said of Gonzalez, with teammate J.C. Boscan translating. “He’s a great hitter and he’s having a great season.”
Gonzalez, who was hitting .593 (16-for-27) in September, is in the midst of a 10-game home stand too. Just thinking about the damage he can do in the hitter-friendly Coors Field brings up raw memories for Chipper Jones. Jones lost the 2007 NL batting title to Matt Holliday when he was with the Rockies. Jones hit .337; Holliday hit .340.
“If (Gonzalez) is doing the same thing on the road that he’s doing at home, I’d be glad to give him credit,” said Jones, who went on to win the batting title in 2008 by hitting .364. “And he’s a tremendous player, don’t get me wrong, but the numbers? He’s hitting like .390 at home with 25 homers and 65 ribbies?”
Close. Through Monday, Gonzalez was hitting .395 with 24 home runs and 63 RBIs at home and .288 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs on the road. Infante by comparison, is hitting .379 at home with 1 homer and 17 RBIs and .311 on the road with six homers and 22 RBIs.
Even to be in contention is something Infante never imagined, in a year in which he made his first All-Star team too.
“I’ve worked on hitting every year,” Infante said. “All of a sudden I’m in this situation. I’m really happy about it.”
But Infante said his focus is more on winning the NL East anyway.
“I’m more excited that the team’s in first place and trying to make the playoffs,” Infante said. “If I help the team, everybody will be happy.”