CLEVELAND — In what has been a personal nightmare of a season, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis may have had his most frustrating game of 2014 on Friday.
He was hitless in five at-bats, including striking out a season-high four times against Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber. Davis left five men on base, including a whiff with the bases loaded and one out in the third.
Davis was back in the starting lineup Saturday against right-hander Carlos Carrasco, although he was dropped from the second spot to the fifth. For Davis, it’s just important that he is still getting starts.
“It’s huge. Obviously, tough loss [Friday] night. Had an opportunity early in the game to get on the board and couldn’t capitalize,” Davis said. “I’ve had games like that where it didn’t really matter whether I took it or I swung at it, it was pretty much going to be a strike.”
It was the 13th game this season in which he struck out at least three times; Davis continues to lead the American League with 145 strikeouts and is second to Atlanta’s B.J. Upton for the major league lead. Davis is also 2-for-22 in his past six games and his .191 average is a season low (not including the first two games of April).
“You can’t look at your numbers too much,” said Davis, who hit .286 last season while leading the majors in homers (53) and RBIs (138). “Obviously, at some point you have to sit down and be realistic and call a spade a spade. But you always get another chance. You are not going to benefit yourself or anyone else if you go back there and feel sorry for yourself. This hasn’t been the greatest year as far as I’m concerned, but we’ve done a lot of positive things. We are still in first place. So I’ll go out there and continue to try to put good at-bats together and be as productive as I can.”
Three times on Friday Davis watched strike three from Kluber, and a couple appeared to be obvious strikes from the outset.
“There were some that he took that were balls that were called strikes, too. It all snowballs, it seems like,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I think sometimes your brain can get in the way of your body.”
Showalter said he sees the work Davis puts in and he keeps counting on the slugger to break through. Despite the difficulty making contact, Davis is third on the team in homers (21) and RBIs (57) this season.
“Because of his track record, sometimes it doesn’t happen until next year, but we can’t give into that,” Showalter said. “I talk to him every day, I said [Saturday], ‘Are you still with us, still engaged?’ Believe me, he thinks every day is the start of something special. I wouldn’t sell him short. It’s there. Sometimes it’s late.”
Perhaps the most frustrating thing, Davis said, is that he believes he has been on the precipice of breaking out of the season-long slump multiple times, and then he regresses.
“I feel like I’ve been hanging there all year. I feel like I’m seeing the ball well, there’s just pitches that I’m missing,” Davis said. “I feel like I’m one swing away. Obviously, at this point in the season, I’d like to see a little bit more of a return. But you take what you can and keep going.”
Showalter said he’ll keep giving Davis opportunities, because he has been able to contribute even while struggling.
“He knows there’s always going to reach a point with everybody where [it’s] ‘how far do you go?’” Showalter said. “But with Chris, because he defends, because he plays with great effort and he gets some walks now and then, you think about all the big hits he has had for us. So it doesn’t send a good message to throw him under the truck.”