Showalter drops slumping sluggers Trumbo, Davis to bottom half of Orioles lineup

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Buck Showalter is done waiting for his top two sluggers to click at the heart of the Orioles batting order to make whole a lineup with hot hitters at the top and bottom.

A day after designated hitter Mark Trumbo homered to break an 0-for-24 skid in his first start of the season batting sixth, he was there again Friday night, and first baseman Chris Davis returned from a day off to reset batting seventh for the first time in nearly three seasons.

Showalter insisted nothing went into the decision, even though Trumbo and Davis have furiously tried to pull themselves back to their career norms that at times their efforts have been counterproductive. Combined, the duo that hit 85 home runs between them a season ago entered Friday with 36. Trumbo was batting .237 with a .706 OPS. Davis was at .212 with a .739 OPS.

“You don't take the heat off guys,” Showalter said. “They put pressure on themselves. It's a number. I like the idea of having some threats all the way through the lineup. We've got some guys who have done well toward the top, and some guys who have done well toward the bottom. I like the depth of our lineup.”

The two players’ understanding of the changing assignments approaching the season's final seven weeks varies, but the reality is that a team's best hitters should bat highest in the lineup to ensure they get the most opportunities at the plate. All-Star Jonathan Schoop, plus rookie Trey Mancini and even newcomer Tim Beckham all have hit their way above the two veteran sluggers.

"I think that there's quite simply, speaking for myself, guys that have outperformed me," Trumbo said. "And they should be probably taking some of those reps in those high-leverage situations, which is not to say that I can't get it going and fit into where I've hit before. But my production hasn't been good enough to really warrant a higher spot in the order."

"I understand that he's going to make adjustments to try to get guys going," Davis said of Showalter. "For whatever reason, he feels like sliding Mark and I down will help us out. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. I remember a few years ago when he put me in the two-hole with Manny [Machado] leading off. That was a pretty dangerous combination. But I think he's trying to find a way to get everyone clicking on all cylinders."

Asked if he cares about batting seventh for the first time since 2014, the season in recent memory that most closely resembles this year, Davis said, "Usually, no."

"I'd rather not be batting ninth, but if it's a more productive spot for me in the lineup, then I'm all for it," he said. "To be honest with you, I just want to win baseball games and be productive."

On Friday, both conceded they’re in a constant state of searching for their respective swings. Trumbo allowed that the rib cage strain he suffered while stretching before the July 30 game in Texas might’ve been a result of his extra work trying to find the form that helped him swat a league-high 47 home runs last season.

"I think that the injury might have probably had something to do with a little overuse on my part, trying to figure things out," he said. "I think I've been fighting it, kind of trying to get the swing going all season — even in spring training, it wasn't ideal. So, whereas last year came pretty naturally, this year is equally as tough on the other end."

The problem, Trumbo said, boils down to the fact that he’s fouling off some of the pitches he hit hard a season ago.

"At the end of the day, when I got a pitch to hit, I more often than not did something good with it," Trumbo said. "This year, I've fouled too many off to really have a chance. You always look at maybe how the at-bat ended, whether you chased or whatever. But quite often, earlier in the count, I probably had something to work with, and when you're going well, you simply don't miss those pitches."

Davis, who got Thursday off in order to reset mentally and was out on the field taking early work Friday at Oakland Coliseum, wasn't as quick to pick out anything that wasn't working.

"I think it was good to take a step back, take a deep breath," Davis said. "I've been burning the candle at both ends lately, just trying to kind of get the feel I've been looking for, for what seems like pretty much all season. I think it'll pay off going forward. The next couple months are obviously huge for us, and we're not going to get a lot of breaks. So anytime you can kind of take a step back and take a breath, that's good."

The good news for each is that the Orioles offense has grown to be incredibly balanced despite their struggles. In addition to breakout years from Schoop and Mancini, Machado is slowly climbing out of his early-season hole, center fielder Adam Jones is on his regular pace, and the likes of Seth Smith, Welington Castillo and Caleb Joseph are finding their swings in platoons.

Since the All-Star break, the Orioles’ 146 runs before Friday were the most in baseball, and the team's 44 home runs were tied with the Washington Nationals for the most in the majors. The Orioles still have days when they lapse, but overall the offense has been stronger than the inconsistent version of the first half.

Their veteran sluggers who now reside in the bottom half of the lineup want in on that good feeling.

"I'm going to keep working at it, keep grinding and hopefully it'll click here pretty soon and be a lot more fun to go up there and get four at-bats," Davis said.

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