Only a 12-year major league veteran — one who has lived and died at the plate over 5,000 times in his career and seen everything the game has to offer — would take the time amid the worst hitless streak in baseball history to think of how to comport himself if he ever snapped out of it.
So on Saturday morning, after days of positive but fruitless at-bats that extended his major league record to 54 consecutive at-bats and 62 plate appearances without a hit over two seasons, Chris Davis asked if it would be bush league to keep the ball when he finally got a hit.
No one begrudged him doing so. When a first-inning, two-run single with the bases loaded comes against a backdrop like this, why act like you’ve done it before? No position player had ever gone longer than he had.
"It meant a lot to me," Davis said. "That's a long time without getting a hit."
Davis' hit — the first of three on his breakout day in which he drove in four runs in a 9-5 win over the Boston Red Sox — was a moment that built for weeks. He started poorly at the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, and he was jeered by his team's own fans the first home series against the Yankees.
But something changed in both Davis and the Baltimore crowds starting Monday. His at-bats got better, and as he walked from the dugout to the plate and back after he didn't break through with a hit, Davis was cheered.
He didn't start in the first game of this road trip in Boston, though he came off the bench for another at-bat in the ninth inning Friday. There's never a bad time to get your first hit of the season, but the bases-loaded, two-out opportunity in the first inning certainly seemed a meaningful time for Davis to slap a ball into right field.
As he stood on first, Davis grabbed the bill of his helmet and nodded toward the visiting dugout down the third base line. Jonathan Villar had hopped the railing and was running around the warning track dirt. Miguel Castro was waving his cap in the air. Davis motioned in the air for the ball, on the pregame assurance from a coach that it'd be "a veteran pro move." The crowd at Fenway Park cheered.
"It was pretty cool," Davis said. "Obviously, I've been looking forward to it for a while, but there's no way to really put into words kind of what I was feeling really when I looked back at our bench and saw the guys going crazy. That's probably been the biggest pick-me-up moment in this whole thing, aside from getting a hit. … It was too hard not to step back and really enjoy the moment, especially when I saw my teammates erupting and heard the cheers. It was pretty special."
But once the inning was over, the good feelings didn't end. He went back into the dugout to get his cap and glove, and got a hug from Trey Mancini. Davis grounded out in the third inning, doubled to drive in another run in the fifth, added a run-scoring forceout in the sixth and doubled to open the eighth. He raised his batting average to .079.
For manager Brandon Hyde, it was a just reward for what he's seen from Davis this past week. Davis didn't get the celebratory beer shower that marked their winning weekend in New York to open the season, but he was greeted to a raucous rally in the clubhouse when he finished his postgame television interview. Infielder Rio Ruiz said Davis walked in, arms raised as everyone banged on the metal lockers in Fenway Park's visiting clubhouse.
"I've been really happy with his at-bats, honestly, the last four or five days," Hyde said. "I think his pinch-hit at-bats have been all really good. I thought that he squared a couple balls against Oakland a couple days ago, so I kind of felt this was coming. I loved his at-bat yesterday. I can tell he was in a better place mentally, and it was just a matter of time. Good thing it happened today.
"This guy is tough, and this guy is mentally tough. To persevere through some really difficult times — the spotlight is on him, everybody's talking about it and writing, he's seeing it on TV. For him to be able to be the same guy every day and have a grind-out approach, he was putting in so much extra time in the cage, on the field, early batting practice almost every day the last five days, to be able to just see results work out for him — it's a great feeling."