As the baseball season approaches the All-Star break, opposing teams still have yet to solve Orioles first baseman Chris Davis.
Before Davis left Baltimore on Sunday afternoon to take part in this week’s All-Star Game festivities in New York -- where his first-half success will certainly be a top national storyline -- he left Orioles fans with one final pre-break memory.
Davis, who will start in Tuesday’s All-Star Game and participate in Monday’s Home Run Derby, blasted his major league-leading 37th homer of the season -- homering in his third straight game -- in Sunday’s 7-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, tying Reggie Jackson’s American League record for most homers at the All-Star break, set in 1969.
As he has throughout the season, Davis -- whose four RBIs Sunday gave him 93 for the season -- displayed his overwhelming power to the opposite field, taking a sweeping cut at a 1-1 changeup down and over the outer half of the plate from Toronto starter Josh Johnson and sending the ball into the fifth row of the left-field stands. It was Davis’ 13thhomer to either left-field or left-center.
“You can't shift to the stands,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, referring to the heavy pull shift most teams now play on Davis. “We've done our share of moving toward tendencies, but they don't allow you to put anybody out there. So hit it where the grass doesn't grow. ... If they stay in one pattern and one place, he'll make them pay.”
Teammate Adam Jones also homered in his third consecutive game – the teammates have combined to crush Toronto pitching over the past two seasons – becoming the second teammates in Orioles history to both homer in three straight games and the first in 52 years, when Hank Foiles and Jim Gentile did it July 18-20, 1961.
With the win, the Orioles (53-43) went into the break winners of four of their past five. Now five Orioles head north to play in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, the most since five represented the club in 1997. Davis, Jones and shortstop J.J. Hardy were elected by fans to start and third baseman Manny Machado was a player’s selection. Tigers manager Jim Leyland, the AL manager, added Orioles right hander Chris Tillman on Sunday to replace Detroit right-hander Justin Verlander, who pitched Sunday.
“I think it’s always huge to build up some momentum going into the break, let guys kind of rest easy and get after it when we get back,” Davis said of the Orioles’ surge heading into the break. “Pitching has been solid, we’ve been swinging the bats well throughout the whole first half. So it’s definitely good to get those wins.”
Right-hander Scott Feldman, acquired from the Cubs on July 2 in a trade that sent Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop to Chicago, earned his first win in an Orioles uniform, giving the O’s their fourth quality start in their past five games.
Coming off a start in which he was charged with a season-high seven runs, Feldman allowed three runs on four hits over 7 1/3 innings, striking out seven and walking just one.
Feldman allowed just one hit after a two-out single in the first, retiring eight of the final nine hitters he faced, walking off the field to a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 34,748 at Camden Yards with one out in the eighth. The Orioles are 6-1 when their starting pitcher gets at least one out in the eighth inning.
"He was pitching so well,” Showalter said of Feldman. “You're so careful about changing the karma of a game. And that was sticky, hot. He was a good matchup for the challenges you have on a day like this. I'd like to think I was going to let him start the inning so I could let him get an ovation, but our fans respect what Scotty did today.
"He's pitched two out of three good games, and one where he didn't quite have command of his breaking ball. That's the type of professionally pitched outing we hope to get with him, and all our guys."
The home runs by Davis and Jones helped the Orioles run out to a 6-0 lead after three innings and head into the break with 132 homers, most in the major leagues.
“That’s always a good feeling,” Feldman said. “It puts you at ease a little bit where you don’t have to be so fine and you’re not worried about giving up singles and stuff like that.”
The Orioles jumped on Josh Johnson – who allowed seven earned runs for the first time in nearly six years -- for four runs in the first inning. Jones slapped an RBI infield single to the right side to plate the Orioles’ first run. Davis then pulled a double down the right-field line to score two more runs.
Hardy then singled home Davis with a two-out hit, giving him 200 RBIs as an Oriole and making him the third shortstop in club history (Cal Ripken, Jr., Miguel Tejada and Mike Bordick) to record 60 or more homers and 200 RBIs.
Davis’ homer, which came after Jones drew a leadoff walk in the third inning, put the Orioles up 6-0.
The Blue Jays (45-49) have seen enough of Davis, who is hitting .374 (40-for-107) with 15 homers and 32 RBIs against Toronto since the beginning of the 2012 season.
In the fifth inning, Jones took a 2-2 fastball to straight-away center for his 19th homer of the season. In the three-game series against the Jays, Jones was 6-for-9 with three homers, six RBIs and seven runs scored. Seven of his 19 homers this season and 13 over the past two years have come against Toronto.
Toronto crawled back late to bring the tying tun to the plate against closer Jim Johnson in the top of the ninth, but Johnson earned his 33rdsave by stranding two runners in scoring position when he struck out Jose Reyes to end the game.
The save was Johnson’s 105thof his career, tying him with Tippy Martinez for second-most in Orioles club history.
After the game, Showalter sent his five All-Stars to New York – where they will play for home-field advantage in the World Series -- with well-wishes knowing they will all be instrumental to the team’s success once the season continues Friday.
“We hope the effort of our five guys is very meaningful late in October, whether or not they win a game,” Showalter said.