The Orioles are a team made up of streaky hitters. Go through the roster on any given day, and you’ll find a guy or two who are red hot (like Nick Markakis, hitting .356 in July), and at least a couple who are definitely not (Matt Wieters-3 for his last 30, Mark Reynolds-2 home runs in 63 July at bats, Wilson Betemit-5 for his last 31, among them right now).
But no one on this team is streakier than Chris Davis. He came in to Thursday afternoon’s series finale with Tampa Bay in a dreadful tailspin, having collected just 16 hits in his last 30 games. That stretch recently saw him strike out in seven consecutive at bats, and saw his batting average plummet to .255.
On Thursday, Davis started what O’s fans hope will be a different extended streak. He delivered a three-run double and a long solo homer (16), pacing an offense that, at long last, did pick up the big hits, in a 6-2 win.
Chris Tillman wiggled out of early jams on the first and second, giving up a hit and three walks in those two innings. But his teammates flashed some leather behind him, turning double plays in both innings to keep the Rays off the scoreboard. The double play in the second was particularly impressive. We were reminded of the words of the great Cal Ripken, Sr., who used to say, “Don’t make half of a good play.” Well, that’s exactly what Reynolds started the play doing.
Holding Ryan Roberts on first, Mark Reynolds fielded a one-hop shot off the bat of Carlos Pena on his glove side left. On his knees, he spun around and threw toward second. The throw sailed very high, forcing shortstop JJ Hardy to leap as high as he could to snatch it before it sailed into left field. Hardy came down, touched the bag at second for the force, and fired a low throw back to first. Reynolds dug the tough throw out of the dirt in plenty of time to double-up Pena, for the double play.
In the fourth, Tillman picked up a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play to end another threat.
The Orioles got on the board first against Rays starter James Shields (L, 6-9) in the fifth. Markakis singled with one out. Shields hit Hardy with a pitch, and walked Jim Thome, loading the bases for Adam Jones.
Jones grounded on 0-2 pitch into left field, scoring Markakis and Hardy for a 2-0 lead. Shields walked Wieters, loading the bases for Davis.
After falling behind in the count 0-1, Davis drilled a curveball into the gap, rolling to the wall in left center, clearing the bases for a 5-0 Orioles lead.
Tillman stayed on with the score 5-0 until the top of the seventh. He walked Roberts leading off, and gave up a ground rule double to Pena. Sam Fuld delivered a two-run double, chasing Tillman after another solid, if not spectacular performance. Tillman (W, 3-1) gave up just the 2 earned runs on 5 hits and 4 walks. He struck out 5, and was helped out with the 3 double plays behind him.
In the bottom of the seventh, Davis added a solo home run off reliever Burke Badenhop, making it 6-2.
Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson (in a non-save situation) pitched the last three innings, keeping the Rays off the board on two hits, striking out three, and getting another double play.
The birds welcome the red hot Oakland A’s to town Friday night. Zach Britton (1-0, 3.60) throws for the Orioles against Oakland’s Jarrod Parker (7-4, 3.00). Game time is 7:05.
- Two at bats changed this game’s complexion: Jones two run single, and Davis’ three-run double. It’s amazing what a big hit will do. The birds haven’t had nearly enough of them in these situations this season. Maybe, though, this game will be a trend-setter.
- When the defense plays behind him, Tillman is a different pitcher. In his one bad outing this year, it was Reynolds who misplayed a ground ball, opening up the flood gates (and that is not meant to admonish Tillman of blame for the seven run inning……). Without the good D, who knows what happens in this one.
- The bullpen closed the door again.
- It wasn’t ALL good from the defense. Wilson Betemit committed his 14th error.
- 11 strikouts from the offense is still a lot.
- Hardy was hurting after the game. He was drilled in the ribs by Shields in the fifth. X-rays were negative, but he’ll be hurting for a while in all likelihood.