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The Kid carries no such burdens. In fact, he's almost carefree about the batting race. "I think it's kind of neat," says Mattingly, "the two of us fighting for the title. Just think, we don't have to check the papers to see which one is ahead, not as if it was Dave and, say, Kent Hrbek. I like it this way."
Mattingly simply loves to hit. He went to Puerto Rico over the winter because he was a little disappointed that he tailed off at the end of '83, and he won the winter league's batting championship with a .368 average. He and Piniella practice together frequently, and Friday night they could be seen in the runway behind the dugout, working on mechanics.
"I just wasn't feeling right," says Mattingly, who was batting .350 at the time. "Lou got me to put a little more weight on my back foot and stay down." The next night, Mattingly touched the Angels' Geoff Zahn for an opposite-field single, an opposite-field double and an impressive home run into the Anaheim Stadium terrace in rightfield, all on first pitches.
Mattingly's power has been a revelation, even to him. "I never hit more than 10 homers in a season, in any league," he says. "I think it's amazing enough that I'm going for a batting title. But for me to be up there in slugging percentage is even more incredible." Actually, Mattingly is proudest that he has liberated the Yankee farm system: The team is no longer afraid to bring up its good young prospects. One of them, in fact, outfielder Vic Mata, is challenging Winfield and Mattingly at .339, although he has only 62 at bats.
Winfield regained the batting lead in the first inning Sunday, singling after Mattingly flied out. Their race was briefly interrupted by a beanball war and a fifth-inning fight, and if either player was worried about protecting himself, he didn't show it. Winfield took responsibility for the strongest Angel, Brian Downing, and Mattingly ended up on the bottom of a pile. In the sixth, Mattingly dusted himself off, then hit a Ron Romanick pitch over the rightfield fence, which started the winning rally in the Yankees' 5-3 victory and also gave him the batting lead. That lasted only a few moments, though, because Winfield followed with a hustling double to left.
Both Winfield and Mattingly want the title, but while Winfield wants it badly, Battingly—as he is coming to be known—wants it goodly. "If I don't win it," he says, "I won't be disappointed, because I didn't expect it and I'll know I had a very good year. I'll be very happy for Dave. Just so long as one of us wins it."
Winfield is trying to steer clear of the entire subject. "I don't like to get into it," he said Sunday. "With the pressures of the New York media, I don't think it's going to be a nice situation at the end."
Winfield has experience on his side, and if he gets hot again, well, nobody gets hotter, even if he does have a sore left wrist. Mattingly will have the benefit of seeing more righthanders the last month, and he's the better contact hitter. Nobody on the Yankees will say it, but there is a slight pull for Mattingly. One observer says, "Mattingly might have a great game, but if the team lost, he won't do anything but throw his glove in the locker. Winfield, if he does well in a loss, will sometimes shrug his shoulders as if to say, 'Hey, it wasn't my fault.' "
Says outfielder Steve Kemp, who's very close to Mattingly, "I hope it ends in a tie, I really do. I know most people are rooting for Don, but that's because he's sort of the underdog. Who knows? Someday he might be the veteran fighting it out with The Kid for the batting title, and people will be pulling against him."
One of them is an expensive thoroughbred and the other a quarter horse, but they're 1 and 1A.