It couldn't have been any more different from the cauldron that preceded it.
Chris Davis wasn't surrounded by the passion of an opening-weekend series against the hated New York Yankees, but playing the Oakland Athletics in front of a record-low crowd on a muggy Monday night at Camden Yards. He wasn't booed, but instead warmly cheered by a crowd who at this point just wanted him to get a hit as badly as he does.
None of it mattered.
On a night when Davis' teammates broke out for an early offensive torrent against a familiar foe in Athletics starter Marco Estrada and ended up 12-4 winners, his three hitless at-bats to start the game gave him 26 for the season and 47 dating to the end of 2018, the latter breaking a major league record for consecutive at-bats without a hit by a position player set by Eugenio Vélez in the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
The first was a lineout to right field, on a center-cut fastball that was tamely hit at right fielder Stephen Piscotty. In the second inning, he had an 0-2 pop-up just into foul territory in right field dropped by Jurickson Profar, but lined out to left field on the next pitch to tie the record. The third was a 103.5-mph line drive to left field on an 0-1 pitch, this one to the warning track.
“I'm pulling for him to get a hit, pulling for him to just have the ball hit outfield grass somewhere,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “And it didn't. It's just one of those things. You've just got to stay upbeat and stay positive. It's just battling. He's battling, and it's cool to see. You just feel for him, and wish that something would fall”.
Davis went on to strike out to end the seventh inning, and the Orioles scored five times in the eighth, allowing him one last chance to break his streak. Even with most of what remained from the announced crowd of 6,585 fans — the lowest for an open-admission game in Camden Yards history — standing and cheering him wildly, Davis struck out again to make it 49 straight at-bats without a hit.
At 56 plate appearances without a hit, Davis is now one shy of the record of 57 set by Tony Bernazard of the Cleveland Indians in 1984.
Hyde said only the results were disappointing, not how they came about, while trying to keep the focus on what he believes Davis did well.
“He hit three balls on the nose, and the first three at-bats were really good, so I'm taking that as a positive moving forward,” Hyde said. “How about the defense he played? Made a diving play, a couple really nice plays. So, he helped us win the game. I'm really happy for ... to go through what he's going through and still play the defense that he's playing, and still have the attitude that he has, speaks really highly of his character.
“It's tough to put yourself in his shoes, and what he's going through. I admire him for being out there and playing his butt off, and throwing the defense out there that he's throwing out there. So, good for him. I was hoping one of those balls would fall, but just didn't. It's baseball. When you hit three balls on the barrel, I know he feels good about that. Hopefully, it's a good start.”
Baltimore Orioles Insider
Monday made official an aspect of the 2019 Orioles that, if not unforeseen, has certainly consumed everything about the team, good and bad, and reached a crescendo when they arrived home Thursday from a winning road trip through New York and Toronto.
With every hitless at-bat over the weekend, Davis was booed more, even if that changed Monday. Every day, Hyde, a manager hired for his player development acumen, was made to answer for the only veteran hitter on his roster.
"I was hoping he'd get off to a good start, and was hoping that we'd have a good relationship and that he would play well early and hit, and just he got off to a slow start," Hyde said before the game. "That's the nature of the game. That's the nature of this, so that's why it's talked about a lot."
Hyde said it's been difficult to see Davis jeered the way he was over the first home series of the season, though he's encouraging Davis to face that all as part of overcoming.
"I don't want to hide anything, and I don't want to try to mask his struggles and what he went through last year," Hyde said. "We're taking this thing head-on, and I appreciate that from him too and that he's open to talk about things with me. Now we are where we are, and we're still talking about it a little bit. So, hope we can turn it around."
Davis was booed for most of the weekend — save for the cheers that came when utility infielder Hanser Alberto pinch-hit for him late in the loss Thursday — but was met with cheers both as he walked up to the plate and back to the dugout in each of his five plate appearances Monday. It was a small crowd, but one that wasn’t there to pile on. Davis’ teammates noticed.
“Everybody in here is pulling for CD,” right-hander Andrew Cashner said. “The guy used to be one of the most feared hitters in baseball, so I mean, it doesn't just affect him. It affects us. We don't want to see him do bad. We want to see him do well. His first three at-bats, he really the ball pretty good, squared it up. I thought today was definitely a step in the right direction. He came up big with that play down the line. He brings more than just his bat. But I know he wants to hit and I know it'll come.”