Since being called up by the Diamondbacks on June 15, the 6-foot-1 second baseman from Cleveland (by way of Vanderbilt) has enjoyed a storybook beginning to his major league career. In just 14 games in the bigs as of Monday, Kata was batting a torrid .375, with 9 runs scored, 3 homers and 7 RBI.
On Monday night in an 8-7 win over the Colorado Rockies, Kata, batting leadoff for the Diamondbacks, went 5-for-6 with a home run and an RBI double. His five hits tied a club record.
More importantly, Kata's appearance in the lineup has coincided with a 12-game winning streak for Arizona. With Kata on the roster, the Diamondbacks have surged from below .500 to a record of 45-36, within four games of the division-leading San Francisco Giants.
With the Diamondbacks decimated by injuries to middle infielders Craig Counsell and Junior Spivey, the team hastily called Kata up from the AAA Tucson Sidewinders in mid-June. Later, an injury to starting shortstop Tony Womack thrust Kata into the leadoff position as of Sunday.
Kata, drafted by Arizona out of Vanderbilt in 1999, had produced solid numbers at Tucson-- a .289 batting average with 25 RBI-- but there was no indication that the former Commodore was ready to burst on the scene the way he has.
"Matt came up here and wasn't intimidated, wasn't in awe," D-backs manager Bob Brenly recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He didn't hope to do well, he expected to do well - and that's been reflected in his performance."
Conventional wisdom says that Kata is likely to be demoted once the veteran infielders are healthy enough to return to the lineup. For the moment, however, Kata has unexpectedly made a credible case for a permanent position on the 25-man roster.