It was just a single to right field in the fourth inning Wednesday, a well-struck liner that bounced safely in the outfield grass.
But it scored a run and snapped a 0-for-12 skid by struggling slugger Chris Davis, who hadn’t picked up a hit since the fourth inning on Friday when he homered in Yankee Stadium.
Davis’ RBI single Wednesday followed his at-bat in the second inning, in which he struck out on three pitches and was booed on his return to the dugout – an indictment of how much he has struggled this early season.
“It’s nice to know you were hearing those too and it wasn’t just me,” Davis quipped after the Orioles’ 5-3 win against the Toronto Blue Jays. “Amidst the boos, there are always people picking me up. I think our fan base understands the amount of work that goes into it, the effort that is there on a night-in, night-out basis. But, ultimately, I know they want results. I don’t like the boos, but I understand their frustration. But, honestly, I hear more positive things throughout the game than I do boos, and that’s really what picks me up.”
RBI singles are rarely worth writing about. Especially by a guy who landed the franchise’s wealthiest contract to hit baseballs deep into the night.
But Davis has looked so lost early this season, especially the past few days, that making good contact and driving in a run is noteworthy. Some fans rose to their feet after the RBI single – it’s hard to tell whether it was mock applause or genuine support after his ugly start.
Davis had another good at-bat in the seventh, when he went the other way with a pitch and singled through the open hole at shortstop. Hitting to the opposite field is often a sign that Davis is starting to feel more comfortable with the bat.
That single made it two hits in three trips to the plate in one game for Davis after having three hits in 38 at-bats to start the season. It was his first multi-hit game of 2018.
“Yeah, it’s nice to have two hits instead of one. Somedays, I’ll take one instead of none, So, ultimately the goal is to win the game, so it was nice to feel like I contributed and, obviously, great to get a W.”
With Wednesday’s singles, Davis raised his average to .122, a 41-point hike. Still, that’s far from productive, but, for one night, he was in the offensive mix.
Schoop breaks skid, too
While most of the spotlight of the club’s offensive woes has been on Davis, second baseman Jonathan Schoop has struggled with the bat, too.
The 2017 Most Valuable Oriole entered Wednesday batting .189 with one homer, one RBI and one walk, and he had struck out 16 times. Perhaps more alarming, Schoop was 0-for-13 and fanned seven times with runners in scoring position.
He broke out of that Wednesday, doubling in the fourth inning to plate Manny Machado for the Orioles’ first run. And then in the fifth he added a bases-loaded single, giving him two RBIs for the game and two hits with runners in scoring position.
“It’s just a reminder, this guy, the number of runs he scored last year, the number of runs he drove in, what he hit, what he did for us. And Jon, he wants to do it every night,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He worked hard. He works hard and he never assumes everything. It’s like he’s playing to establish himself every night, so I’m glad to see him get something back for it.”
A scare with Mancini
The Orioles really can’t afford a major injury right now to a key player, specifically a hitter who has been productive so far this season. And one who has, at least temporarily, helped solve the club’s leadoff dilemma.
So, there was some deep breathing in the sixth when left fielder Trey Mancini swung at an inside pitch from John Axford and the ball struck him in the right hand. Mancini was in considerable pain and immediately was examined by head athletic trainer Brian Ebel.
“His ball runs a lot and for some reason I decided to swing at that pitch and I learned the hard way that I shouldn’t have done that,” Mancini said. “It hit my hand when I swung, my middle finger actually, in particular. Everything’s OK, though. Got a precautionary X-ray, nothing broken, so yeah, I’m good.”
Mancini’s middle right finger was wrapped, and he said it was a little sore to grab a bat and grip a ball, but otherwise he thinks he avoided a scary injury.
“There’s a little pain for sure,” he said. “Thankful we have an off-day tomorrow and I think after that I’ll be good to go.”
Mancini stayed in the game and singled in that at-bat.
While he was on the basepaths, though, he continued to flex his right hand. And, before going back out to left field the next inning, he made a couple practice throws and tested his grip on the baseball.
“Yeah, we made him do that because he was just going to run out to left field. Brian was already on it. I told him, ‘Just make sure he can grip the ball and throw,’” Showalter said. “I almost ran for him at first (base), but the game was close and I knew that his at-bat would come again. He had shown that he was able to hit with it.”
The guy is in his second full season in the majors, but he’s already a huge part of this team. Losing him would have been a dagger.
Rough series at the gate
The Orioles lost two of three to the division rival Blue Jays week, but not a lot of people watched it in person.
The three-game series drew an announced crowd of 26,954, or an average of 8,985 a game.
That’s not good.
Monday’s game – in brutal cold and bone-chilling drizzle – drew 7,915, the smallest announced paid crowd in Camden Yards history (excluding the no-fans game in 2015). The Orioles announced Tuesday’s attendance – which is actually tickets sold – as 8,640 and Wednesday’s at 10,399.
So, it is going in the right direction.
Certainly, the weather plays a major part here, as does the month and day of the week. April weekdays are often poor draws. And Baltimore isn’t the only major league city that has seen sparse crowds so far this season.
Still, this is worth monitoring as the season goes on.
Last year, the Orioles averaged 25,042 fans per game, their lowest since 2011. This week, the Orioles barely eclipsed that average as the total for a series.
That’s not the right direction.