Chris Davis found the cleanup spot again. Which happens when a former slugger appears to be regaining his stroke.
Left-hander John Means is finding the rotation to be an ideal fit, his tendency to hold opponents to one run a most endearing trait.
Davis led off the top of the second inning today by launching a 93 mph fastball from Angels starter Griffin Canning onto the flag court in right field. The swing and the sound were quite familiar. They’ve just been buried for a while.
The 0-for-33 start to Davis’ season is getting a little harder to recognize.
Stevie Wilkerson also homered later in the inning, Dwight Smith Jr. took over the team lead in the third and the Orioles avoided the sweep with a rain-delayed 5-1 victory over the Angels before an announced Mother’s Day crowd of 16,387 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles went 3-5 on the homestand and are 14-26 overall and 6-15 at Camden Yards. They’re headed to New York later tonight to begin a two-city road trip that includes a stop in Cleveland.
Means improved to 5-3 with a 2.33 ERA by allowing one run and four hits over six innings. He tossed a career-high 110 pitches and struck out two of the last three batters.
Catcher Pedro Severino lined his fifth home run into the left field seats in the sixth inning. He hit four in 105 games with the Nationals.
The Orioles tied their season high with four home runs, Severino’s shot coming against reliever Noé Ramirez.
Smith now has eight home runs to break a tie with Trey Mancini. His two-run shot to center field off Canning, a ball measured by Statcast at 416 feet, gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead.
It bears repeating that Smith hit two home runs in 35 games with the Blue Jays last season - his complete major league total before the Orioles acquired him in March for international signing bonus slots. He’s hit eight in 37 games this year while more than doubling his plate appearances.
Davis got around on Canning’s fastball, clocked six mph faster than the one thrown to Smith, for his fifth home run of the season. The ball bounced on the flag court and Davis was 18-for-59 (.305) since the 0-for-33 start. He also raised his average to .196, but it now sits at .189 after he struck out twice, walked and lined out, with second baseman Tommy La Stella making a diving catch on the left side of the infield.
Getting above .199 for the first time since the end of the 2017 season is the next hurdle for Davis, who hadn’t batted fourth this season before today. La Stella robbed him of .200.
Wilkerson continues to start in center field and he cleared the fence where he patrols to give Means a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
Means’ first pitch was thrown 2 hours, 42 minutes after the scheduled start due to the latest batch of rain. The top of the first inning lasted 15 minutes. Means threw 29 pitches and stranded two runners after Hanser Alberto’s fielding error and a walk.
Everyone was getting out of here alive, but not in a timely fashion.
Mike Trout introduced himself to the rookie by homering off the changeup in the third inning. Means threw 64 pitches through the third and 84 through the fourth, holding the Angels to one run but endangering his opportunity to work deep into his start.
A one-out walk in the fifth was followed by a double play to limit Means to nine pitches.
Means went a career-high seven innings in his last outing, coming out of the game after 96 pitches. He made it through the sixth today, with left-hander Paul Fry replacing him, and allowed one run for the fifth time in his six starts.
The Orioles are waiting for Renato Núñez to heat up again. He went 0-for-4 today with three strikeouts and is 4-for-52 since April 24 and 1-for-31 since May 1.
The club is telling fans to hold onto their tickets and use them for another “value” or “classic” game this season as a show of appreciation for sticking around today. Or if you stayed home due to the weather.
Manager Brandon Hyde on Means’ pitch count: “We were hoping for some 10-pitch innings, but it didn’t happen until later. He threw a lot of pitches in the first couple of innings. Did a great job of minimizing. Got stronger, I felt, as the game went on. I thought his command picked up as the game went on and gave us six great innings.”
Hyde on Davis: “I think his at-bats the last two weeks have been really good. He’s swinging the bat with confidence. I love his approach at the plate. He smoked that ball to right. He smoked that ball to the shortstop. That’s what I love to see. I love when he hits the ball hard the other way.
“He’s got such huge power to left-center. It means he’s staying on the ball, staying through the ball. Chris has picked it up big-time and he’s swinging the bat outstanding.”
Hyde on Davis batting fourth: “I just like the way he’s been swinging the bat. I was switching some things up and seeing what it looked like. He went deep.”
Hyde on homestand: “I thought we played really good against Boston. It was a disappointing one, that third game and had a chance to take two of three. I didn’t like the way we played the first two games of this series. I didn’t think we played our best baseball yesterday and the day before. I thought we played really well today.
“I thought we swung the bat really well today. We made a ton of hard outs. Tommy (La Stella) made two really nice plays. The left fielder, (David) Fletcher off (Rio) Ruiz. That’s a three-run double normally. I loved the way we swung the bats. We had nine hits, but I thought we hit multiple balls hard. We went deep a few times.
“I think we ended the series well. We didn’t play well the first two games, so I thought today was a good day.”
Hyde on team through 40 games: “I like the way our team plays. I like the way our team prepares. My whole goal coming in, I wanted to have a team ... I wanted our guys to play with energy. I wanted them to be prepared. I wanted us to catch the ball defensively. I wanted to compete and battle and grind at-bats. I think for the most part we’ve done that up until this point this year.
“We’ve had some hiccups. That’s baseball. But I feel like there’s multiple games that we’ve had chances to win that we haven’t and I hope that as we improve and our guys get better, guys start having more confidence and we can win those games that we lost the first 40, that we kind of had in our grasp.
“There have been a lot of close games that have gotten away from us. I’m hoping these next 40 that we continue to improve and those games we can adjust and make better decisions from a standpoint of being able to stay in those type of games instead of losing those games. Happy with our effort for sure these first 40 games. I think our effort has been phenomenal. Now it’s continuing to improve and continuing to learn at the big league level. Now it’s about how to stay in games late.”
Means on outing: “I feel good about it, but I definitely wasn’t on. That’s for sure. Didn’t feel great. Didn’t feel like my fastball command was there. I was just lucky that I could throw my changeup and slider for strikes and that really helped me.”
Means on Hyde’s confidence to push him to 110: “Yeah, and I didn’t know if I was going to be in. I knew Fry was warming up and I knew (Justin) Bour was coming up and I didn’t know if Fry was coming in or not. Obviously when I didn’t see him walking up the stairs I was excited and I’m glad he left me in.”
Means on fastball velo increasing later in game: “I probably just warmed up. It was a little chilly out there today. In the first couple innings I was probably just a little chilly, but no, that’s kind of what I like as a starter is to try to develop that fastball velocity later in the game.”
Means on learning more about himself last two games versus good offensive teams: “Yeah. I think I’m out there comfortable and able to pitch around that. I was glad to see that I could get through that outing without my best stuff and hopefully next outing I can have some more and be even better.”
Means on whether feels more like a starter throwing 110 pitches: “I definitely feel like a starter now. (Andrew) Cashner comes in and he’s like, ‘Oh, they finally let you go over 100 pitches.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I know, I was feeling it.’ It didn’t feel that bad. It felt natural. I’ve done it before, I’ve done it all my career, so I’m used to it.”
Davis on how he felt at plate: “I felt good. Little cold, little windy, but I felt good. I felt good the last week or so and felt like I’ve been seeing the ball well and having good at-bats. A couple of at-bats got away from me today, just going up there and being a little too aggressive, But overall I’m happy with the way things are going.”
Davis on closing homestand with win: “It’s big, especially going on the road, going to New York and Cleveland, two places that are going to be tough to play at. The first two games, they weren’t us. We made a lot of mistakes we don’t usually make. We kind of put ourselves in tough spots early in the game. We were able to get in there today, get a lead early, which I think was huge, and hang onto it.
“You can’t say enough about how well John has thrown the ball this year. He’s been huge for us. I’m just proud to see the way he’s handled it and the way he’s gone about his business.”
Davis on batting cleanup: “I liked it. I didn’t know if you guys were going to notice that. That was good. I told Hyder I’ll hit anywhere in the lineup. Especially with this group of guys, it doesn’t really matter. It was nice being in the four-hole. It felt very familiar.”
Davis on being two games better after 40 games compared to 2018: “Honestly it feels like we should be more than two games better than we were last year. It’s a different feeling in this clubhouse. You can feel it when you walk in. It’s a different atmosphere. We’re having fun, we’re enjoying ourselves. We’re taking our job seriously, but at the same time we’re going to enjoy each and every day and I think that’s big for this group of guys.”