HOUSTON — The Orioles were already struggling when they arrived in Houston this weekend, but first baseman Chris Davis thought he had begun to turn the corner. He felt like he was finally starting to see the ball well, and he believed the solo home run he hit off Twins right-hander Jose Berrios in the Orioles' series-ending loss to Minnesota at Camden Yards was a result to build on.
But after the Orioles were swept out of Minute Maid Park on Sunday with an 8-4 loss to the Houston Astros — the Orioles' season-high seventh straight defeat — Davis felt lost again, having gone 1-for-12 with eight strikeouts in the series.
"I'm not seeing a whole lot," Davis said. "I think the last game at home, I kind of started to feel a little bit better, and obviously get down here and just having to battle a number of things. I'm just not picking up the ball, and that's going to make hitting pretty tough. I'm looking forward to getting home and getting back to an environment where I'm comfortable and where I've had a lot of success."
Davis is prone to extensive slumps. The Orioles know that, and did so when they signed him to a club-record seven-year, $161 million contract before last season. But Davis is on pace to strike out 250 times this season, which would easily break former Oriole Mark Reynolds' major league single-season record of 223 set in 2009.
Davis' total of looking strikeouts have increased this season, especially recently. He is just 3-for-36 over his past nine games, and that includes 20 strikeouts. Out of those 20 strikeouts, 11 have been looking, including two in Sunday's loss to the Astros.
"I'm just not picking up the ball out of the pitcher's hand," Davis said. "I feel like I was not really recognizing the pitch until it was right in front of me, but at that point it's too late. Anytime I'm taking that many called third strikes, something's going on because I've never been one to really lay the bat on my shoulder."
Davis continues to work through his slump. He took early batting practice before Saturday's game in Houston — there was no on-field BP before Sunday's game — and said he'll continue to do so until he finds his way out of his funk.
"I think it's just continuing to work," Davis said. "If anything else, it's the peace of mind of knowing I'm doing everything I could. As long as I've been playing, as long as I've been through rough stretches, that's always really worked for me, to continue to go out there and put in the reps, so that's what I'm going to keep doing."
Davis insisted he's trying to be aggressive at the plate, but that's been difficult.
"There's no lack of aggressiveness on my part going into my at-bat," Davis said. "I'm not going into it thinking, I'm going to take a pitch here or there. I want to be aggressive in the strike zone, but not being able to pick up the ball until really late makes it really hard. So I mean, we'll try some different things and see if we can get out of this."