Chris Davis woke up with a positive attitude Thursday. He was back home among his loved ones and hoping that being back in front of the home crowd on Opening Day at Oriole Park would be some kind of elixir for what has ailed him at the plate for the past couple of years.
Things started out all right. He jogged down the orange carpet during pregame introductions to a mixture of boos and cheers that was about the best he could have hoped for after going hitless and striking out eight times on the Orioles’ successful season-opening trip to New York and Toronto.
There was even a burst of positivity when he came to the plate in the first inning with a runner on third and three runs already across the plate. There were definitely more cheers than boos as the sellout crowd imagined him stroking a clutch single and adding one more run to the early lead.
That’s when reality began to bite. Davis struck out to end the first inning. He struck out again in the fourth. He came up in the sixth with a chance to aid in a rescue rally after the Orioles blew a 4-1 lead in the top of the inning and worked the count to 3-1, but swung at three straight pitches and struck out again, which unleashed a huge chorus of boos.
Trust me, you don’t want to be Chris Davis right now. Not for $161 million. Not for anything.
“It’s not something I wasn’t really expecting, but it was tough,” said Davis, the bewildered look in his eyes belying emotions he did not want to express. “At the same time, I heard it a lot last year and rightfully so.”
The unkindest cut of all was taken with him in the dugout, when manager Brandon Hyde sent utility infielder Hanser Alberto up to pinch hit against left-hander Zack Britton and — you guessed it — the crowd erupted in a huge ovation.
That’s the same Hanser Alberto who was designated for assignment four times during the offseason, including once by the Orioles before they reclaimed him.
This would have been one of those moments during Davis’ prime home-run hitting years when Orioles fans would have been coming out of their seats and cheering in anticipation a game-changing moon shot, but this Chris Davis has been trying to find that Chris Davis for a long, long time, and those same fans have given up hope of that ever happening.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I understand the frustration,” Davis said. “Nobody’s more frustrated than I am. Especially on a day like today, the kind of game we were having. We had them on their heels the whole game and it was a frustrating day for me personally and for the team collectively, but you’ve got to move on.”
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If the fans have abandoned him, his teammates have not. Hyde remains unwavering in his support.
“I'm seeing a guy who's giving a great effort … It's just not happening right now,” Hyde said. “I know we wanted to get him off to a good start. It's not the start, I'm sure, that he wanted to get off to. But I'm going to continue to play him, and I'm going to continue to support him and find the right matchups for him to get him off the schneid here a little bit early. But he's battling and he's being a great teammate and not taking his offense to his defense.”
Starting pitcher Alex Cobb, whose solid debut was spoiled by a shower of hits after he was replaced by reliever Mike Wright, watched the afternoon play out and felt a lot worse for Davis than he did for himself.
“I get all sides of it,” Cobb said. “Chris works really hard. He’s a great guy. He really is. He’s one of the better teammates that I’ve had in my time in the big leagues. I know he cares so much. To feel that in front of your own fans, I can’t even imagine.
“I feel for him. I understand the fans’ frustration as well, but nobody’s got a better outlook. I don’t know how I’d be able to handle it, but he comes in and is a great teammate every single day.”
Hyde doesn’t know the whole history behind it, but he knows that giving up on Davis a week into the new season is not an option he’s interested in exploring. The angry fans don’t get a vote.
“I haven't been around here, so I wasn't aware of fan reaction,” Hyde said. “I'm not really concerned about it. I'm going to support my guys on the club, and it is what it is, but I'm going to continue to stay positive with him, and continue to support him [along with] our whole coaching staff. We're there for them, and we're working as hard as we can to try to get him off to the best start he can.”