When Tim Beckham first arrived in Baltimore last August, nights like his four-hit game in the Orioles’ 5-4 walk-off loss to the Kansas City Royals were far more common.
A year’s worth of inconsistency and injuries have kept him from replicating that memorable start. But after a challenge to the infield about what’s expected of them down the stretch as the Orioles continue to examine what they have these days, there’s hope that Beckham’s final month of the season continues down this path.
“Timmy was in the middle of everything,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I thought he played well defensively, and the whole infield defense has done a lot better in the last, I think, couple of weeks.
“But Timmy, he wasn’t too happy about last night. I knew that he came in here — the home run he hit, that ball was really, really hit well. I’m hoping Timmy finishes strong here in September.”
Beckham, who raised his average from .216 to .227 with the 4-for-4 effort, said he felt like he was too passive in Friday’s series opener.
“You know I’m an aggressive hitter, and I wanted to stay aggressive,” Beckham said. “Felt like I took a couple of pitches I could hit the night before and I just wanted to go out there and stay aggressive and see a pitch I could handle.”
That was his approach on what for a moment would have been the game’s defining hit.
His double down the left-field line only narrowly nicked the top of the wall on the hop and thus allowed right fielder Adam Jones to score from first base in the Orioles’ two-run eighth, putting them up 4-3. Before that, Beckham singled in the second inning, hit his 10th home run of the season in the fourth and singled again in the sixth.
Showalter was heartened by seeing that response from Beckham after the entire group was challenged in a meeting before the game. Beckham tried to leave that in the clubhouse.
“Once you are in between the white lines, man, you don’t think about any of that,” Beckham said. “You know in between the white lines, you know production is expected and you want to help the team win ballgames.”
That Beckham found himself in the thick of the Orioles’ offense was a welcome sight for the visitors, who quickly became accustomed to him helping them do that last August, and have seen their collective fortunes fall as precipitously as Beckham’s.
He tore out to a .394/.417/.646 start with 18 extra-base hits in August after the Orioles acquired him July 31, 2017 for minor league right-hander Tobias Myers. But Beckham collapsed down the stretch with a final month in which he hit just .180.
He was batting .179 this season when a lingering groin injury required core muscle surgery in April, and has hit .244 in 56 games since returning in late June. But with the Orioles’ July fire sale leaving them bereft of much experience, Beckham takes on a prominent role in the present as the team looks to see what the future is with him.
He might cede some shortstop time to Jonathan Villar to allow the Orioles to evaluate the recent trade acquisition in that spot, which could move Beckham around the infield further.
“I met with all the infielders here today about as far as moving guys around to make sure we get a good look at a lot of things,” Showalter said.