BOSTON - Chris Davis went through the victory line on the field today, handled a walk-off television interview, returned to the clubhouse and was swarmed by his teammates.
Streaks were broken. Friendships were strengthened.
Players pounded their fists on lockers as Davis raised his hands in the air. A few of them spoke. He wasn’t drenched in beer and water, but the showering of affection meant more to him.
Davis ended his hitless streaks with a two-run single off Rick Porcello in the top of the first inning and added two doubles and two more RBIs later in the day, and a bullpen that’s been tumbling off the tight rope covered the last four innings in a 9-5 victory over the Red Sox.
The Orioles halted a four-game skid and improved to 6-9 as the series resumes Sunday afternoon.
“They were basically congratulating me,” Davis said. “It’s kind of the elephant in the room for a while. I said it before and I’ll say it again: This is a special group of guys. We’ve got a lot of guys who hadn’t had a lot of big league time. This is their second or third organization and it’s just a good group of guys.”
Davis grounded out to first in his next at-bat, but he greeted reliever Heath Hembree with a tiebreaking double in the fifth. Hembree replaced Porcello after back-to-back singles by Renato Núñez and Rio Ruiz.
The first pitch from Hembree, a 93 mph fastball, was deposited into the gap in right-center field. The Orioles stranded two runners in scoring position to freeze their lead at 3-2.
Davis had his first multi-hit game since Sept. 4 and first three-RBI game since Aug. 28. He remains in search of his first home run since Aug. 24.
“It was pretty cool,” said Davis, who was hitless in his last 54 at-bats and 62 plate appearances. “Obviously, I’ve been looking forward to it for a while. There’s no way to really put into words what I was feeling really when I looked back at our bench and I saw our guys going crazy.
“That’s probably been the biggest pick-me-up moment in this whole thing aside from getting the hit. Just having guys day in and day out pick me up, constantly helping me stay in a positive mindset. I mean, that’s what it’s all about. This is a special group of guys. I can’t say enough about them.”
At the plate again in the sixth to face Marcus Walden, Davis was credited with another RBI on a ground ball to shortstop Xander Bogaerts that resulted in a force as Núñez scored. Ruiz stopped short - that’s apparently his move - and prevented Bogaerts from making a quicker tag and getting the double play.
Davis’ last four-RBI game was July 29.
With Tyler Thornburg pitching in the eighth, Davis led off with a double into left-center field on a ball that Mookie Betts tried to steal with a leaping attempt near the wall. Davis had his first three-hit game since Aug. 28 and raised his average to .079 after starting the day 0-for-33.
“We’ve known just how hard he’s been grinding and how hard it’s been on him, so our guys were pulling for him bigtime,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “You have so much respect for someone who’s going through such a difficult time and the way he’s handling was and is so incredible that everybody’s pulling for him. To see him get not one but three, it was awesome.
“I’ve been really happy with his at-bats honestly the last four or five days. I think his pinch-hit at-bats have been all really good. I thought that he squared a couple balls against Oakland a couple days ago, so I kind of felt like it was coming. I loved his at-bat yesterday. I could tell he was in a better place mentally and it was just a matter of time and good thing it happened today.”
Teammates hopped the railing or stood on the top step to applaud Davis after his single. Fists were pumped in the air. He touched the bill of his batting helmet and smiled.
“It was huge,” said Andrew Cashner, who earned his third win. “I think he told me he got chills going down his arm and the whole dugout was fired up. We’ve been pulling for him. He’s been here at 1 o’clock every day, working, hitting for as far as I know the last six days. But it’s just when you see a guy grinding every day, you see him putting in all the work, you really pull for that guy. For him to come out of it today is huge for us and huge for him.
“I think it’s one of those things that this game can be really tough at times. It can humble you, and it’s one of those things that kind of with the media, with just everything - your friends and everything - it kind of continues to keep rolling. To get out of that, I know it’s definitely probably a big weight off his shoulders.
“For us as a team, it’s going to help us in the long run. But I just try to keep telling him, nobody ever remembers what you do in April. If he can get it together for the whole season, I mean, he used to be one of the best hitters.”
“He’s been swinging the bat well the past couple of games,” Ruiz said. “He was finding a lot of barrels and just no luck. But today, for him to get that first knock, especially get us on the board, that was huge and that’s a big monkey off his back, as well.
“For him to go through that, I don’t think he’d wish that on anybody, but he stays positive. He’s a positive person and it was great to see that come to fruition.”
Davis admitted that the streaks burdened him pretty much every waking minute. His wife, Jill, stood outside the clubhouse smiling as she waited for him to shower and get dressed. They would lean on each other again.
“I tried not to let it dominate my thoughts, but it was hard, especially the last few days when I really felt better at the plate,” Davis said. “I felt like I was in a good place and still wasn’t seeing any return and then coming on the road. When we’re at home it’s one thing, but being on the road it’s a little different.
“I was glad to see not just one fall today, but to get a few hits and feel like I really contributed to the win.”
Davis clapped his hands as he rounded first base and glanced over at the dugout.
“I was just fired up,” he said. “I think the biggest thing for me is just not having the headache of having to answer questions and having my teammates answer questions and Hyde. Good grief, he’s had to answer questions pretty much every day about me. We’ve kind of turned the page now and really focused on the team.
“I hate when one guy is singled out, especially when it’s something negative. We’ve done so many positive things this season already. My 0-for was kind of overshadowing that, so I’m glad it’s behind us.”
“I definitely didn’t want to give up a hit to him,” Porcello said, “but I respect how he’s going about his business. It’s never easy. Baseball’s a tough game. I’m sure that he’s still showing up and playing hard every day. I tip my hat to him for battling through what he’s battling through.”
Davis motioned with his hand that he wanted the baseball, which was tossed into the dugout. He’s got an unusual souvenir - a reminder of something he wanted to forget.
“I’m going to get it authenticated,” he said. “I said it a couple of weeks ago, you have to embrace it at some point. I have all the respect in the world for Rick. He’s a great pitcher and he actually made a pretty good pitch. Thankfully it just found some grass.
“I talked to one of our coaches before the game and asked him. I said, ‘Do you think it’s bush if I get the ball?’ And he said, ‘Absolutely not. I think it’s a veteran, pro move.’ I mean it meant a lot to me. That’s a long time without getting a hit. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I’m going to do something special.”
Fans stood to cheer Davis as he strolled to the plate in the first, an odd scene on enemy territory. The heel had turned into a babyface.
“I appreciate all the support,” he said. “Walking to the plate last night pinch-hitting, I heard the Red Sox fans cheering me, saying, ‘This is your day.’ I feel like this fan base has always appreciated good baseball and always appreciated guys who played the game hard and played the game the right way. I appreciated it.
“I had probably the worst BP round in the history of baseball, which is a good sign if you know baseball. It was too hard not to step back and enjoy the moment, especially when I saw my teammates erupted. I heard the cheers. It was pretty special.”
The Orioles scored four runs in the sixth and two in the seventh to open up a 9-3 lead, giving them a rare opportunity to move freely around the breathing room. But Christian Vázquez had a two-run double off Jimmy Yacabonis with two outs in the seventh, Tanner Scott replaced him and the tension swelled again.
Scott threw six straight balls before inducing a fly ball from Betts with the count 3-1. Mychal Givens struck out two batters after J.D. Martinez singled off Scott with one out in the eighth, and he retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the ninth.
“Five outs, big outs,” Hyde said. “I’m trying to use Mike in the spot where we need him the most. It could be a stopper, it could be a closer. With game’s on the line I want Mike Givens in the game. And today we needed five outs from him and he did an amazing job. Five quick outs, didn’t throw many pitches. Fantastic.”
Cashner made his fourth start today and allowed only one hit going into the sixth inning. He was gone after two batters - and a double and single - and Yacabonis replaced him with the Orioles leading 7-2.
Orioles starters have completed six innings in only two of 15 games.
Mitch Moreland grounded into a double play, a third run charged to Cashner, who threw 81 pitches in five-plus innings.
The Orioles loaded the bases in the first two innings, with only the Davis single to show for it, and the Red Sox tied the game in the third on Vazquez’s two-run homer.
Some streaks die harder than others.
Orioles pitching has allowed a home run in the first 15 games to draw within one of the major league record held by the 2009 Phillies.
Vázquez owned the Red Sox’s only hit until Andrew Benintendi led off the sixth with a double and held at third on Betts’ single. Moreland’s double play completed Cashner’s line.
Cashner threw 28 pitches over the first two innings and 30 in the third, which included two more walks. Benintendi drew a leadoff walk in the first and Pedro Severino threw him out attempting to steal.
An eight-pitch fourth, with all the outs recorded by center fielder Cedric Mullins, enabled Cashner to regain control and Davis rewarded him with the tie-breaking double. Cashner needed only 10 pitches to retire the side in order again in the fifth.
“I thought I got away with a couple mistakes early, but coming out swinging the bats, definitely want the home run back,” Cashner said. “If I finish that curveball, I think it’s an out. But big day by C.D. It was awesome - four RBIs, three hits. It was great to see him get on the board and I think he’s a big part of us winning. If he gets going, we’re going to win a lot more games than I think people think.”
The Orioles loaded the bases again in the sixth, this time with no outs, and Núñez delivered an RBI single, followed by Ruiz’s two-run single. The ground ball from Davis plated a fourth run.
Two more runners crossed the plate in the seventh after Mullins led off with a single and moved up on an errant pickoff throw. Steve Pearce’s fielding error on Dwight Smith Jr.’s grounder allowed Mullins to score.
The leadoff hitter reached base in each of the last six innings.
Davis reached his hitless limit.
“We’re just pulling for the guy,” Hyde said. “I talk about it every day and that’s part of my job and I’m OK with that. Things happen. It wasn’t about me, it’s about Chris and it’s about his well being and his mindset and what he’s going through. When you’re with somebody for 12 hours a day and you see the work they’re putting in and it wasn’t paying off until today, it’s a great feeling to watch him do what he did today.
“I think you learn about him. This guy is tough, this guy is mentally tough, and to persevere through some really difficult times, spotlights on him, everybody’s talking about it, seeing it on TV. For him to be able to be the same guy every day and have a grind-out approach and he’s putting in so much extra time in the cage and on the field, early batting practice every day the last five days, to be able to see results work out for him, it’s a great feeling.”
Said Davis: “I think the way I carried myself, really for me was really all I had a lot of times. Making sure that I didn’t hang my head, I didn’t give in, and I know the guys appreciate that. A lot of them have been vocal about it.
“You’re not always going to be successful, especially in this game. It’s how you handle adversity. I’m proud of the way I battled and I appreciate all the guys that have rallied around me.”