In the seventh inning of the Orioles’ 8-4 win Friday, the Cleveland Indians chose to intentionally walk first baseman Chris Davis to face Nelson Cruz, who is tied for the major league lead in home runs.
That wasn’t a slight to Cruz as much as it was recognition of just how good the Orioles offense has been lately. It has tallied six or more runs and 12 or more hits in each of the past five games.
On Friday, the Orioles’ No. 3 through No. 5 hitters finished the night 6-for-10 with five RBIs.
“It was just a matter of time,” Davis said. “We’ve been doing a good job of stringing some good at-bats together lately and scoring some runs.”
Cruz has been on a tear all season, but Davis’ recent success has provided a welcome boost to the middle of the Orioles lineup. In his past four games, the first baseman is 8-for-16 with four home runs and 10 RBIs.
The highlight of that streak was undoubtedly his three-home run night against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 20, which tied a club record, but Friday’s performance wasn’t too shabby, either.
After starting the game with a strikeout, Davis drove home a pair of runs with a line drive down the right-field line. Then, he crushed the first pitch of his next at-bat over the wall in right-center field.
“Chris doesn’t have to swing hard to create some damage,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Anyone watching Davis last year wouldn’t be too surprised by his no-doubt-about-it power. But his early struggles this season and a stint on the disabled list with an oblique strain prevented him from finding his rhythm until recently. Now, Davis says, he’s driving pitches that he used to foul off.
So when center fielder Adam Jones doubled in the seventh inning and Davis stepped to the plate, the Indians called for the intentional walk. A batter later, they were down by another run, thanks to pitcher Mark Lowe’s fielding error on a ground ball hit by Cruz.
“It’s impressive,” Showalter said of his offense. “We got some help with the error tonight, but we took advantage of it.”
Davis says this is the first time all season that he, Jones and Cruz have been hot at the same time. If they can maintain that consistency at the plate, that spells trouble for opposing pitchers.
“It’s big for us, especially in the middle of the lineup,” he said. “Jonesy, me and Cruzy, if we continue to get on base for each other and drive each other in, it’s going to be huge for us.”