ANAHEIM, CALIF. — After the Orioles orchestrated a too-little, too-late ninth-inning rally Wednesday, first baseman Chris Davis – once the team's most prodigious power hitter – said the club needs to find a new identity that doesn't lean on the long ball.
It was far past bedtime for most fans back East, but the Orioles went into the ninth inning of Wednesday's 10-7 loss to the Los Angeles Angels down by eight runs, but ended their comeback with the potential tying run in the on deck circle.
They scored five runs in the inning — matching their season high for one frame (a five-run seventh in their 5-2 win at Yankee Stadium on April 5) — without a home run, stringing together four singles, a triple and a walk.
"It's frustrating," Davis said. "But as an offense, we have to keep grinding and doing the things that we've been doing to have those at-bats late in the game, and figure out a way to get them to show up earlier."
Even with seven runs Wednesday, the Orioles entered Thursday averaging just 3.6 runs a game, which ranks second last in the American League. For the past seven seasons, the Orioles have ranked in the top five in home runs, including three years in which they led the majors. No team hit more homers than the Orioles from 2011 to 2017 combined, and they hit 109 more homers over that stretch than the second team on the list, the Toronto Blue Jays.
But their 2018 power numbers are pedestrian. The Orioles' 32 homers entering Thursday were tied for 16th among the 30 major league teams.
Around the game, strikeouts are up and hits are down. In fact, this year marked the first time in history that there were more strikeouts than hits through the season's first month. Going into Thursday, the Orioles had an astounding 57 more strikeouts (286) than hits (229) this season.
Innings like Wednesday's ninth inning give the Orioles reason to be optimistic, but not only did they own a minus-58 run differential through 30 games, they'd been outscored 123-58 in the first six innings of games. From the seventh inning on, including extra innings, they outscored opponents, 49-42.
"We ended up scoring seven. They probably would have pitched it differently if the game had been closer. But you would have liked to push those across [earlier], at least one across, and keep engaged in the game," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "There's a lot of guys who normally wouldn't have been pitching in that situation. But we seem to string them together pretty good toward the end. It's the in-between that's been a challenge for us."
Asked why it sometimes takes so long for the Orioles offense to get going, Davis — who has reached base in four of seven plate appearances since receiving back-to-back games off against left-handed starters to receive a "reset," according to Showalter -- shrugged.
"I don't know," said Davis, who went into the series finals still hitting just .179 with a .541 OPS and just two homers in 108 plate appearances this season. "I think if I knew that answer it would be an easy fix. I think a lot of it has to go into, really, the approach. That is really all I can think of right now. Not trying to do too much with one swing or with one pitch."
Davis, who has won two major league home run crowns, said the Orioles need to put together more innings like Wednesday's ninth, innings based more on getting on base instead of hitting the ball out of the park.
"But just going up there, I felt like we kind of singled them to death in that last inning," Davis said. "That has to be our approach day in and day out. We've relied on the home run in the past way too often and we've done it for way too long. At some point, there has to be an adjustment where we realize we are more than that kind of offense. I'm encouraged, but we've got to try to find a way to get them on the board earlier so some of these translate into wins."
Before Thursday's game, Showalter said the Orioles hitters are attempting to make that adjustment. No major league team sees fewer fastballs than the Orioles — just 50.2 percent going into Thursday's game — so they must be able to adapt to more off-speed pitches and be able to take to ball to the other field.
"They're too talented," Showalter said. "They're able to do other things. I think sometimes a pitcher is on top of his game and a good pitcher don't give up those [home runs], but you can some things. You know what pitchers are going to do. They don't change their colors very often and I think the game's evolved so [much]. Like I've said before, there's no fastball counts. About half the people we face are throwing over 50 percent offspeed pitches. It's just a different game, and I think the ones who adjust to that [will benefit]. I think that's what Chris is saying. I think we're working at trying to do that more."
Asked why it sometimes takes so long for the Orioles offense to get going, Davis — who has reached base in four of seven plate appearances since receiving back-to-back games off against left-handed starters to receive a "reset," according to Showalter — shrugged.
In many ways, the Orioles offense is built for power — and that's explained by their impressive home run totals over the previous six seasons. But that's also made the team's lineup prone to extensive slugger slumps. On top of that, the lineup lacks the balance necessary for consistency. But for Davis, who is the the team's biggest feast-or-famine hitter, to say that the team needs to change its offensive philosophy at the plate is notable.