Struggling first baseman Chris Davis was out of the starting lineup Monday for the second time in eight games, dealing with a sagging batting average and lingering oblique soreness through which he has been playing.
Before the game, he said he wasn't excited about losing at-bats, even if it was against one of the American League's toughest left-handed pitchers in the Chicago White Sox's Chris Sale. But Davis said he accepted the decision because he understood that maybe he wasn't one of the Orioles' best nine hitters right now.
Well, apparently being the club's 10th best hitter was plenty good enough.
Davis slammed a pinch-hit, walkoff, three-run homer Monday night in the ninth inning to give the Orioles a dramatic 6-4 win over the White Sox.
Afterward, he said he was just as pleased with his swing as he was with the process leading up to it. He worked a full count before slapping a slider from Ronald Belisario to deep right-center field for the game-winner. It was the seventh pitch of the at-bat.
“After I got down 0-1, I was really just trying to elevate the ball and get a pitch out over the plate. I was able to lay off some pitches,” he said. “I fouled one off that probably wasn't a strike, but at that point I was trying to protect, so I was happy with the at-bat, and obviously happy with the result.”
Before the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter and Davis talked about the decision in Showalter's office. Later, Showalter said the primary reason for sitting Davis was to get Delmon Young some playing time. Young had just four starts in June before Monday and had one at-bat on the most recent road trip, a pinch-hit homer June 16 at Tampa Bay.
“About 90 percent of it is Delmon Young. Need to get Delmon in ballgames,” Showalter said before the game. “I'm not going to let him sit around and not play. It's been a challenge for us getting him enough at-bats to stay sharp. He's gotten some big hits for us this year. So we'll continue to keep everybody in the flow.”
Heading into Monday, Young was 2-for-9 with a homer and double against Sale. Davis was hitless in one at-bat.
Young was 2-for-3 against Sale on Monday and then added a double against the White Sox bullpen in the seventh. But with the game on the line, Showalter sent Davis to the plate instead of Young.
It paid off. And it's possible it could give Davis the lift he needs after being mired in a 7-for-54 slump (.130 average).
“Mentally, I've been in the same place all year. It's obviously frustrating to struggle, but at the same time, nobody is going to feel sorry for you,” Davis said. “You've got to go out there and get your work in and trust that the results are going to be there.”
Davis also is dealing with remnants of the strained oblique that cost him two weeks on the disabled list from April 26 to May 10.
“I knew when I came back that it was something I was going to have to try and deal with. It is better than it was before I went on the DL, obviously,” said Davis, who is now hitting .219 with 13 homers and 40 RBIs. “But I was told even after I got the [platelet-rich plasma] injection that it was going to be something I was just going to have to live with for a while until you get the time to really rest.”
Regardless, he's not using it as an excuse.
“For whatever reason, something is not clicking,” Davis said before the game. “I'm not going to blame it on that. I am doing everything I can to get back to the player I know I am capable of being.”
For one important swing Monday, he sure looked like he was back.
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