TORONTO -- Move over Pat Tabler, a successor for your
specialty act has been found.
When the bases become loaded, so does the bat of Mike Devereaux. The Orioles' center fielder has a long way to go to match Tabler's career numbers, but his performance this year in bases-loaded situations borders on the incredible.
Tabler, who did most of his damage with the Cleveland Indians but now is a utility player for the Toronto Blue Jays, has a career average of .489 when batting with the bases loaded. Of his 508 RBI, 21 percent (106) have been produced in those situations.
But even the king of loaded bases has to take a back seat to Devereaux this season. Enroute to a spectacular career year, Devereaux has thrived in the most opportune situations.
His most recent demonstration came last night, as the Orioles thumped the Blue Jays, 11-4, and moved to within one game of first place. A bases-loaded single by Devereaux drove in two runs and dissolved a 3-3 tie in the fourth inning.
An inning later, it was his three-run double that highlighted a five-run rally and removed any doubt about the eventual verdict. His two appearances last night brought to 20 the total number of bases-loaded opportunities Devereaux has had this year.
In those situations, he is batting .625 (10-for-16) with four sacrifice flies and more than one-third (25) of his 74 RBI.
"I wasn't aware of my stats until I heard them tonight," Devereaux said after last night's win. "I really can't explain it. It's just one of those things that's happening this year.
"When the bases are loaded I think your juices get flowing a little more," said Devereaux. "You know a hit is going to mean more.
"Tonight [last night] against [Jimmy] Key, I was just trying to hit the ball hard and on the turf it managed to get through," Devereaux said of his first bases-loaded opportunity. "The next time [against reliever Mike Timlin] he just hung a slider and I hit it pretty good."
Devereaux was thrown out trying for three bases on his double, but that didn't even make a dent in his overall performance. He also doubled and scored on Cal Ripken's single when the Orioles scored three times in the third inning. For the night he was 3-for-5, raising his average to .274.
It was almost enough to make manager Johnny Oates forget that thought about giving his center fielder a rest last week in Baltimore. "He wasn't making good contact, and I thought it might be a good time to give him a break," said Oates.
"I talked to both Devo and Brady [Anderson], but they both convinced me they weren't tired."
They certainly didn't look like it last night. Anderson's two-run homer off Key (his 16th, tying him with Devereaux for club leadership) opened the scoring last night. Then Devereaux and his support group took over.
"The Cleveland series was pretty ugly for me," said Devereaux. "I didn't get a hit. But I felt that I was rested. It was after the day off [that Oates spoke to him] and I felt that I was fine."
Devereaux said he's aware of things like the fact that he has already easily surpassed his former career high in RBI (59 last year) and is within three of his high of 19 homers (also last year). He knows he's on a pace to put up some fancy figures.
"I guess you always project," he said. "You have goals to try and reach, but you don't want to set them too high and put more pressure on yourself."
Batting with the bases loaded obviously hasn't put any additional pressure on Devereaux this year. And if he can figure a way to get a few more of those opportunities he may find even lofty goals within his reach.
Get a load of this
Orioles outfielder Mike Devereaux drove in three runs with a bases-loaded double and two with a bases-loaded single last night, continuing his success in those clutch situations:
At-bats..... Hits..... Avg. ..... RBI
16.... ..... 10....... .625 ..... 25
452.... .... 118...... .261 ..... 49