Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez talks about giving up five runs in the first two inning, in a 8-7 loss to the Houston Astros at Camden Yards. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun Video)
With five runs in the ninth inning Friday night, the Orioles cut the Houston Astros' lead to just one run, quickly making an early rout into a winnable game with two of their top sluggers due up.
But the Orioles' 8-7 loss to the Astros ended with Mark Trumbo's strikeout after first baseman Chris Davis opted to bunt for a base hit against the shift rather than take his shot at the seats — an unconventional move that left most scratching their heads.
The Astros bullpen was reeling, just about ready to blow a six-run lead given to it by right-handed starter Mike Fiers, and the Orioles quick-strike rally was fueled by three extra-base hits — back-to-back doubles by pinch hitter Hyun Soo Kim and center fielder Adam Jones, followed by second baseman Jonathan Schoop's three-run homer off right-hander Chris Devenski to cut the lead to one.
Davis, who fouled off bunt attempts on the first two pitches he saw from Fiers in his first at-bat of the night, stepped to the plate. He took a called first-strike changeup over the plate and then a fastball inside for a ball, before dropping a bunt that hopped right back to Devenski for a gimme ground out.
"Honestly after the first couple of pitches, I just felt like I wasn't really seeing the ball well," Davis said. "I saw him more over, and I went for it. I thought, 'If I can get it down over there and keep it fair, I've got a chance and then we have a chance to win the game.' I know it's easy to sit back and say, 'Well, you could have hit a home run.' But, you know lately it's been pretty much feast or famine. I thought it was an aggressive move, obviously. I felt like that was my best shot in that at-bat."
Davis is accurate in his "feast or famine" assessment. Since returning from the disabled list last weekend, he's just 4-for-30, and three of his hits were home runs. Davis has found other ways to contribute. His lunging over-the-shoulder catch of Carlos Beltrán's looper in shallow right field in the sixth prevented a run.
And if Davis does execute the bunt — Devenski was falling over to the right side of the mound — it puts the Astros even more on their heels. But instead, closer Ken Giles came in and struck out Trumbo for the final out of the game.
"He gets it down and Trumbo hits a two-run homer, [we win]," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I get it. He feels it. I don't know if he's not feeling particularly good at the plate and passing the baton. I don't ever have a problem with someone feeling something and going for it. I don't dwell on that. It certainly leaves yourself for people to chirp about that understandably. It's not something I'm going to chastise him about. It's one of the reason guys have been able to play with free flow. You feel something and you go for it."