Beginning in the fifth inning, Orioles slugger Chris Davis disappeared down the dugout tunnel to sneak in a few swings inside the batting cages below the seating bowl of Camden Yards, preparing himself in case he was needed in the late innings of Monday night's game against the Chicago White Sox.
The bench hasn't been a familiar place for Davis, but mired in a 7-for-54 slump heading into Monday, that's where the Orioles first baseman found himself in the series opener, watching as his teammates failed to convert numerous scoring opportunities throughout the night.
And when manager Buck Showalter called on Davis to pinch-hit with the Orioles down to their second-to-last out of the game, he washed away all of the club's lost chances with one swing.
Davis crushed a full-count delivery from White Sox closer Ronald Belisario (3-4) deep into the right- field seats for a three-run homer to give the Orioles a 6-4 walk-off win in front of an announced 17,931 at Camden Yards.
“Any time you're able to deliver and come through for your team, it's big,” Davis said. “Like I said earlier today, I'm working as hard as I can to get back on track, doing everything I can and just knowing that as long as I continue to work, the results would be there.”
On a night when the Orioles struggled with runners in scoring position, Davis was patient in the game's final at-bat. After being behind in the count 1-2, Davis took a pair of balls to work a full count before turning on an 82-mph slider.
“It was a nice spot to be in with the game on the line,” Davis said. “Obviously, you want to deliver. When I got down 0-1, to try and shorten up and see the ball up out over the plate and get a good pitch to hit.”
Davis' blast was the Orioles' first pinch-hit, walk-off homer in nearly 26 years, since Larry Sheets hit one against the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 24, 1988.
“It's tough, I'm sure, but he prepared himself for it,” Showalter said of Davis pinch-hitting. “There's no woe is me. He knows at some point the club's going to need a good at-bat from him, and he prepared himself for it from about the fifth inning on."
With the win, the Orioles (40-35) have won three straight and are five games above .500 for the first time since May 11.
Before Davis' homer -- one of three the Orioles hit in the win -- the club had just one hit in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Steve Pearce, who started at first base in place of Davis, opened the ninth with a single to center and Adam Jones was hit by a pitch to place runners at first and second.
“Once we got [Pearce] on base, the life started coming in,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “And then the crowd got into it, and then we're rolling after that. It was a great come-from-behind win for us.”
After Nelson Cruz struck out, Davis was introduced as a pinch-hitter for Delmon Young, who had three hits, to a rousing ovation.
And when Davis sent the seventh pitch of the at-bat into the right-center-field seats, his Orioles teammates stormed out of the dugout in celebration. He greeted Showalter near the Orioles dugout by emphatically slapping his hands.
“I hit it good, but I saw a couple of balls that were hit really well to center tonight that didn't go,” Davis said. “So I was kind of watching the right fielder to see if he was going to run out of room, and eventually he did.”
It was Davis' second career pinch-hit homer -- the other also was a walk-off blast May 14, 2009 for the Texas Rangers against Seattle.
As they opened a 10-game homestand, the Orioles had several early chances to chase White Sox ace Chris Sale from the game. And despite placing 13 runners on base against Sale -- including a season-high 11 hits allowed by the left-hander -- the Orioles scored just two runs against him in six innings.
Clinging to a one-run lead, the Orioles loaded the bases in both the fourth and fifth innings, but they were unable to score in either frame.
Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop opened the fourth with back-to-back singles and moved into scoring position after Joseph's sacrifice bunt. Nick Markakis was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Sale struck out Pearce and Jones to end the inning.
After three straight singles by the Orioles loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth, Machado hit into a force play at home on the second pitch of his at-bat, and Schoop hit into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play on the first pitch of his at-bat.
Joseph's second career homer -- and his second in as many days -- in the eighth inning off White Sox right-hander Zach Putnam made it a one-run game.
Jones put the Orioles up 2-0 on Sale with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning that skipped off the top of the left-center-field fence and into the Orioles bullpen.
Jones' 14th homer of the season came when he turned on a 1-1 slider at the knees from Sale, just the fifth homer he had allowed in 11 starts this season. It was Jones' 151st career homer with the Orioles, tying him with Chris Hoiles for 10th place on the team's all-time home run list.
White Sox leadoff hitter Adam Eaton beat out a slow roller to shortstop to open the third inning -- a play so close that Showalter considered a replay challenge, but didn't.
Eaton would go to third after Gordon Beckham's double and scored on White Sox rookie slugger Jose Abreu's groundout to third, cutting the Orioles lead to 2-1.
With the Orioles leading 2-1, Abreu then took a 0-1 pitch over the left-center-field fence for the game-tying homer in the top of the sixth. Chicago (35-42) would take the lead later that inning on a two-out double by Conor Gillaspie.
Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen fell one out short of his fourth consecutive quality start, allowing three runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings. Chen went into the sixth inning with to a 2-1 lead before Abreu blasted a 92-mph four-seam fastball into the Orioles bullpen in left-center for his 22nd homer of the season.
Immediately after Abreu's blast tied the game, White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo doubled to left to put the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Chen almost escaped the jam by retiring the next two hitters, but Gillaspie's tailing fly ball to left popped out of the glove of a diving Cruz to score Viciedo with the go-ahead run.
Right-hander Brad Brach (1-0) kept the game within reach with two scoreless innings in his first appearance since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk on Saturday, setting the stage for Davis' game-winning homer.
And after the game, Jones delivered the customary celebratory pie to the face when Davis was doing a postgame television interview, but not before Jones allowed Davis to taste the pie first.
“It was chocolate,” Davis said. “He told me he was going to pie me before he even came out there, and [I said], ‘Make sure it's something tasty.' I appreciate him letting me taste it before he smashed it in my face.”
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