The Orioles are back home after their first losing road trip of the season and will open an 11-game homestand Monday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
They still maintain a six-game lead over the New York Yankees in the American League East, but the standings have the potential to become bunched up again quickly.
And Chris Davis continues to struggle at the plate. He was 2-for-22 with eight strikeouts in the six games in Chicago this past week.
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The Orioles scored just four runs in three games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, including one run over a 16-inning span after Saturday’s rain delay, and the offensive problems can’t be pegged just on Davis. The whole lineup was out-of-sync.
But Davis is now hitting just .189, his lowest average since the second day of the season. He has the lowest batting average among all major league hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. The Atlanta Braves' B.J. Upton is second-worst with a .205 average.
Davis’ .289 on-base percentage is the sixth lowest in the American League among players with at least 400 plate appearances. He also leads the AL with 155 strikeouts.
Over the weekend, Davis hit out of the No. 5 spot for two games and sixth on Sunday, but that was partially because the Orioles had a pitcher hitting in the National League park.
When the Orioles return home Monday night, you’d have to expect to see Davis hitting no higher than seventh, where he has been previously.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter hoped that sending Davis down to the No. 7 spot would take some pressure off him and help him find his stroke. He has made six starts there with limited success. He is 5-for-22 (a .227 average) there. All five of his hits there are extra-base hits (four doubles, one homer).
“I don’t buy that all of a sudden they’re learning how to pitch [a certain] guy,” Showalter said. “They threw the kitchen sink at Chris Davis last year and they do it all the time. You go through periods where they make a lot of quality pitches on you and sometimes you miss the pitches you should be hitting. It’s very hard to do.
“Especially as the season goes on, we notice the pitchers start doing some things ahead of hitters because they get four days off in between.”
Davis is ranked in the top 25 in the AL in homers (21, 15th) and RBIs (60, 25th), which is remarkable given his woeful average.
As long as he doesn't hurt the Orioles defensively while filling in at third base for Manny Machado, Davis likely will remain in the lineup. Ryan Flaherty is essentially the team’s only other option at third base, and he serves as the team’s utility infielder. Keep in mind that the Orioles are now working with a short bench after designating Cord Phelps for assignment before Sunday’s game.
After the Orioles’ 2-1 loss to the Cubs Sunday, Showalter said he hoped getting back to Baltimore would rejuvenate the offense. After 11 days on the road, they arrived home at a decent hour and were able to sleep in their owns beds.
The way the Orioles offense is built, it has the capability to score in bunches, but with so many streaky hitters, it also can go through long lulls of being unable to manufacture runs.
We've all seen this before. It's no surprise. We saw this in 2012, especially in the postseason. And while this year's team is better than that club, the Orioles will need to develop more offensive consistency to be a factor in the postseason.
As for Davis, the Orioles don’t have many choices other than continuing to allow Davis to work through his struggling in the bottom third of the lineup.