Orioles first baseman Chris Davis dug himself such a deep hole offensively this season that even when he starts to climb out of it, there’s still little progress to show for it statistically. So, he must take little victories out of each at-bat and hope that, eventually, he can string together some momentum to end this season on a high note.
The prolific power swing is still there, as Davis showed on his game-winning solo home run in the seventh inning Tuesday night against the New York Mets at Camden Yards. Seemingly effortlessly, Davis sent a changeup from Bobby Wahl deep into the center-field stands an estimated 424 feet, fueling the Orioles’ offense in a 6-3 interleague win over the Mets.
His home run ended an 0-for-13 stretch — including eight strikeouts — that dated to the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Red Sox. He entered the night having struck out in 40 of his past 101 plate appearances, a 39.6 percent strikeout rate that exceeds his majors-worst season mark of 36.5 percent.
Davis’ homer, his 15th of the season, marked his first go-ahead home run since June 27.
Before Tuesday’s game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter reminded reporters that Davis’ best production often comes in bunches, but that this season he’s just never found a groove, and his sub-Mendoza line batting average has made it difficult to quantify any progress. Even after his two-hit day, Davis is still hitting just .162 this season.
“I think it’s really taking it one at-bat at a time,” Davis said. “Not getting too high or too low. Not trying to hit a home run, but just going up there and trying to be a hitter. I think it’s too easy a lot of times to get caught up in the negative and sometimes even to get caught up in the positive and let your guard down. For me, I want to finish up strong. I want to work on some things and go into the offseason with a head of steam.”
For Davis, getting on one of the offensive runs he’s been known for — something that’s been absent this season — will be important to carry momentum for the final seven weeks of the season.
“I think that’s a big part of it, just trying to get something going and seeing how long I can make it last,” Davis said. “I feel like the conversations I’ve been having lately with [hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh], with [vice president] Brady [Anderson], with [Mark] Trumbo, anyone who’s ready to talk hitting, it’s just about working and making sure I’m consistent in my approach every day, consistent in my play and consistent with my work.”
The Orioles homered three times Tuesday night, getting a solo homer from right fielder Adam Jones in the sixth inning that tied the game and a two-run shot from shortstop Tim Beckham in the eighth to give the Orioles a 6-2 lead.
“Chris can carry a ballclub for a long time, so seeing him hit that homer tonight was definitely big,” right-hander Andrew Cashner said. “Beckham and Jones, both homers were big. … I think tonight was one of our best collective wins that we’ve had. ... I thought it was a great team win.”
Despite that four-run cushion, the Orioles had to bring in right-hander Mychal Givens for the save in the ninth after right-hander Miguel Castro gave up a quick run on Brandon Nimmo’s leadoff triple and Todd Frazier’s RBI single.
Givens needed just eight pitches to end the game, striking out Austin Jackson on three pitches, getting a second-pitch popout from José Bautista and inducing a game-ending groundout from Kevin Plawecki.
“Mike came in and that’s about as good as you can change the momentum of a game,” Showalter said. “He came in in attack mode and got the job done.”
Cashner (4-10) overcame some costly walks, recording his second straight quality start of seven innings by holding the Mets to two runs on five hits. He retired the first 10 hitters he faced, not allowing a hit until Jeff McNeil’s one-out single in the fourth inning, and retired 12 of the first 13 batters he faced. He usually relies on his two-seam sinking fastball, but on Tuesday, he threw a season-high 50 four-seam fastballs.
“I just think it’s kind of where you’re at and how you’re feeling,” Cashner said. “I was firing off the rubber and I thought my four-seam was staying down in the zone and I thought it had extra life on it I thought I made some good pitches with my sinker when I needed to.
A leadoff walk to Nimmo in the fifth inning eventually scored — despite a double-play ball — on No. 9 hitter Plawecki’s two-out single, and Bautista, who reached on a two-out walk, scored on Amed Rosario’s RBI single.
Cashner received help from his defense in the sixth inning when second baseman Jonathan Villar scooped up a grounder by Michael Conforto in the hole on the edge of the outfield grass, spun and made an accurate throw to first to get the first out.
“The biggest thing for me was Villar’s defense,” Cashner said. “He really changed the game for me, especially, I think it was the sixth inning where he made the play in the hole. Leadoff runner on changes the inning, for sure.”
The Orioles managed just two runs off Mets left-hander Jason Vargas, who entered Tuesday’s interleague series opener with an 8.75 ERA. Jones’ solo homer accounted for one run, and his one-out double in the fourth inning put Renato Núñez, who walked, at third for Mark Trumbo’s sacrifice fly.