ATLANTA — What does it take to fix a beleaguered batter, or for that matter, a team full of them?
For Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis, a pair of middle-of-the-order bats who for the better part of a season and a half haven't produced as such, the solution is the same: Getting runners on creates the ability to get them in, and one can’t happen without the other.
Before a sellout crowd at SunTrust Park on Saturday, Trumbo and Davis provided the two big swings the Orioles needed before they held on for a 7-5 win over the Atlanta Braves.
While the path each took to their punishing swings Saturday — Trumbo's first-inning grand slam and Davis' three-run double in the fifth — has differed in the past couple of weeks, both will be just as heartened by the fact that the Orioles (23-52) made big innings possible as they are of driving them all in.
“In the past we’ve kind of been methodical with it and been able to pass the baton,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Just kind of grind at-bats. And here lately we’ve been doing that. Like I said before, it’s not something that’s just going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a long road, but you want to see it over an extended period of time. It’s good to get some big hits like that.”
It's been contagious. The Orioles' 43 runs over their past seven games are as many as they had over their preceding 20. At least in Atlanta, it's been thanks to the men they've paid handsomely to feature on that front.
Trumbo, who missed the first month of the season with a quad strain and had faded after a quick start upon his return, seemed to fix that in a day. He was frustrated with how he had been swinging in the first game of the Orioles' weekend series with the Miami Marlins on June 15, so he vowed to "get a better version of my swing going" that weekend.
He did, and in seven games since, has homered four times, doubled twice, and gone 9-for-26 (.346) with a 1.278 OPS. His bases-loaded blast gave the Orioles quite a comfortable start, and was made possible by walks by Colby Rasmus and Manny Machado on either side of Adam Jones’ double.
“I've been really proud of him the way he's battled this year and continued to grind and put in the work,” Davis said of Trumbo. “His track record speaks for itself, and he's a guy that can really pick us up a lot in spots. He's been doing that lately.”
Trumbo got another bases-loaded crack in the fifth inning after three straight singles by Dylan Bundy — the Orioles' first pitcher to get a hit since Wade Miley in May 2017 — Rasmus and Jones. But Trumbo struck out looking. That left the bases full for Davis, who turned on a 3-0 fastball and watched as it banged off the top of the right-center-field fence for a bases-clearing double.
“I was just trying to pick Trumb up right there,” Davis said. “He blasted one early in the game, and we understand that concept in here — it's a team game. We have to pick each other up, and I was just trying to do that.”
It was Davis' second big swing in two games since returning from an eight-game, 10-day spell on the bench that included work with vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson to get him back to his old form. The first swing he took in Friday's return after a walk in his first at-bat was a home run. He'd had eight extra-base in 57 games before his break, and now has two in as many games.
“I feel a lot better,” Davis said. “I feel like I'm getting there. I'm starting to get the calm and easy feel, seeing the ball a little better, and putting good swings on the ball.”
Trumbo and Davis struck the key notes in the Orioles' fourth win in their past six games. Both Davis and Trumbo have said in the past week that pulling the team out of its offensive malaise would take a vast departure. All of the strugglers, themselves included, needed to stop trying to homer their way out of it and start being part of a productive, cohesive offense.
“I felt we've done a really good job [this series] of not trying to do too much, not trying to rely on the home run — a lot of things that the Braves do well,” Davis said. “Once you get into that mentality where you just kind of pass the baton and just try to do your job, not do too much, you can do a lot of damage.”
Big swings are required to put up big numbers at times, but they're most effective as part of a string of team success. In last Sunday's win over the Marlins, Jace Peterson broke a streak of 18 straight solo home runs hit by the Orioles. Unsurprisingly, they averaged 2.3 runs in the 23 games during that streak.
That's why the pair of drives Trumbo and Davis hit Saturday coming in bases-loaded situations, made possible by the Orioles' station-to-station hitting before that, plus the fact that they scored six runs in Friday’s ninth inning with only two extra-base hits, are giving them plenty to be encouraged about at the plate.
“There’s a lot of parts to that,” Showalter said. “We have been getting some people out there. We just haven’t cashed it in. I was pretty proud of looking out there and only seeing three on that LOB. But we did some good things to set it up.”
Trumbo's early blast gave the Orioles' breathing room thanks to Bundy's 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball. It was Bundy’s 10th quality start of the season and lowered his ERA to 3.75.
The right-hander exited as a 20-minute rain delay began, and recent bullpen addition Donnie Hart allowed two runs without recording an out before handing the game to Mychal Givens. Givens got out of the seventh with no further damage before allowing a pair of hits and an unearned run on his own throwing error on a pickoff attempt.
Zach Britton pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save of the season, securing the Orioles’ third road series victory of the season. It was Britton’s sixth appearance back from offseason surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon.
“Jeez, nine months off and pitching in a big league game. I had that surgery,” Britton said. “It's hard to get out of the rehab mode and into the competing mode for what, almost a good year, you were focusing on rehab stuff. That's kind of been the challenge, so it was nice just to get into the situation where my only focus was executing pitches.”