Orioles first baseman Chris Davis — faced with a second-inning at-bat Thursday in which he would either get his first hit of the season or break the major league record of 58 consecutive hitless plate appearances — lined out to the warning track in center field on his hardest-hit ball of the season.
Despite the well-hit out in the 8-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics, Davis continues searching for his first hit since Sept. 14 against the Chicago White Sox. He had 21 at-bats and 24 plate appearances without a hit to end 2018. Without a hit in four plate appearances Thursday, he begins the season 0-for-32, without a hit in 53 consecutive at-bats and 61 straight plate appearances — both major league records for position players.
On Monday, he set a major league record with his 47th consecutive at-bat without a hit, a total which did not include the times Davis walked and was hit by pitch during that stretch. He sat Tuesday, pinch-hit in the ninth inning Wednesday and entered Thursday tied for the major league record of 57 consecutive plate appearances without a hit. The previous plate appearance record holder was Tony Bernazard of the 1984 Cleveland Indians.
“It is what it is,” Davis said. “The more I try to go out there and do, or the more I try to shoulder this all by myself, the harder it gets. I have to trust the process, I have to trust that the work I'm putting in. At some point, it's going to turn around.”
Davis was cheered by the bundled-up matinee crowd at Camden Yards when he came to the plate in the second inning, the Orioles already leading 1-0. He worked the count full against A’s starter Aaron Brooks and lined a 105.1 mph drive to dead-center that Ramón Laureano tracked down. Davis joked that with how deep the A’s outfielders were playing him, he knew it’d be caught.
“They were playing me about 20 feet off the warning track, so when I hit it, I knew it was a good swing,” Davis said. “I did everything I could. That's just kind of the way it's going right now. But for me, I can't focus on the result as much as I want to, as much as I want to see some kind of return for all the work I'm putting in. I've got to stay focused on the process.”
Davis had a base hit taken away by the shift in short right field in the fourth inning, walked as part of the Orioles’ four-run seventh inning and struck out with two on and one out in the eighth.
“Two really good at-bats, first two at-bats,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Then he drew the walk. Three good at-bats. He was deep in counts, I thought he was on time with the fastball early, the first three at-bats. We were hoping that ball got over Laureano's head, but not quite enough.”
Davis hung his hat on the work he’s been doing with hitting coach Don Long, a series of drills Hyde said Wednesday were designed to get him short to the ball. He said his at-bats feel “completely different, and I hope it looks different, too.”
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“I feel like I'm seeing the ball a lot better, feel like I'm putting good swings on the ball,” Davis said. “I mean, I lined out again. Drew a walk a little bit later. Just continue to work.
“I feel like it's been very productive, and like I said, I'm going to stay after it. I'm not going to give in. I'm not going to give up. That's not who I am, that's not what I'm about. At some point, it'll turn around.”
Considering the Orioles allowed 28 home runs and hit seven this week at Camden Yards, Davis’ assessment seemed off that some of the balls he hit to the warning track might be home runs when the weather warms up.
But whatever weather he returns to in Baltimore when the Orioles are back April 19 after a week at the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays, Davis will hope for a similar level of support from the fans who transformed a weekend of boos and jeers to four games of cheers and encouragement.
“It's awesome,” Davis said. “I appreciate it so much. Really, the last few nights, just the encouraging yells and shouts throughout the game — I know they're behind me. I know the people that boo aren't the majority, and I really appreciate the fans showing up and backing me.”
"I want to believe they're pulling for him," Hyde said before the game. “They're pulling for him last night, too. Hopefully, they're pulling for him today. I don't know why the shift happened. I was glad it happened. … He did a lot of great things in this town, and I want to believe that people still feel good about that, and want to see him do well."