A small group of Orioles fans traveled from Baltimore to Rogers Centre for Friday’s game, bought tickets in the bleachers, and waited for their Chris Davis moment.
It arrived in the eighth inning, with an opposite-field home run into the left-field bleachers off relief pitcher Steve Delabar. With the blast, Davis became the third player in major league history to combine 50 home runs and 40 doubles in the same season.
Watch: Orioles 5, Blue Jays 3
The five O’s fans paid $100 to the Blue Jays spectator who caught the ball, in order to present it to Davis underneath the first-base stands after the game. In gratitude, Davis signed a black bat with a white marker, posed for pictures, and gave each of the five men an autographed baseball.
“Obviously you want to do whatever you can to get a win, but it’s been in the back of my mind since I got close,” Davis admitted. “You think about it more than you should.”
Babe Ruth, whose museum is walking distance from Baltimore’s Camden Yards stadium, was the first to reach the 50/40 peak, combining 59 homers and 44 doubles in 152 games in 1921. Albert Belle went 52/50 for Cleveland in 143 games in 1995. Davis played his 146game on Friday.
The Orioles checked into their Toronto hotel around 4 a.m. Friday for a three-game series, following a rain-delayed 6-5 loss to the Yankees at Camden Yards. They had lost three of four games in the series and after Friday’s games were 2-1/2 games behind Tampa Bay for the second and final wild-card berth, with the Yankees and Cleveland Indians placed in-between.
Struggling for the impact hit as a group, Orioles hitters averaged .206 with runners in scoring position during their eight-game homestand, and .212 over the previous 19 games (eight wins, 11 losses). In synch, Davis had only four extra-base hits in the 14 games before Friday’s homer, as his slugging percentage sunk 27 points to .652.
Adam Lind (20) and Colby Rasmus, returning from an oblique strain, had hit homers Friday to put the Jays on top, 3-0. The Orioles rallied to tie in the seventh inning and Davis led off the eighth with his homer. Danny Valencia added a two-out single in the inning; three of their runs scored with two out.
“I’ve said all along it’s nice to have personal goal and to reach it, but when the team is winning and being successful, it makes that much sweeter,” Davis said. “Tonight was big for us, to come from behind and get the win.”
Davis checked his swing on a close fastball for a ball, before connecting with Delabar’s 88-mph splitter. Odds were that Davis would bust out again, in Toronto. Since the start of the 2012 season, he’s hit 16 home runs against the Blue Jays. His seven bombs this year are the most hit by any Toronto opponent, tied with teammate Adam Jones.
“It was a really good pitch but I was able to get the barrel on it,” Davis said. “The ball flies in here. I’ve hit some balls in here and I’m thinking, no way it’s going out, then it does. It’s crazy.”
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said Davis remained serene as the attention multiplied this summer, constantly categorizing personal statistics as secondary to the team’s performance.
“He’s sincere about it,” Showalter said, after the game. “He’s a good teammate, so humble about the good things that have happened for him this year. He’s a guy you pull for.”
Davis, 27, was obtained from Texas in 2011 at the trade deadline. He’s earning the bargain rate of $3.3-million (U.S.) in this break-out season.
Around the season’s mid-point, Davis targeted Roger Maris’s pre-steroid era home run record of 61 as a goal, telling ESPN Radio that Maris “was the last guy to do it clean.” With an erect batting stance and increasing patience at the plate (65 walks) over time, he’s vaulted off his 2012 production of 20 doubles and 33 homers, enticing a young fan on Twitter to ask the obvious question. “No,” Davis responded via the social media agent; he hasn’t used steroids.
Were he able to overcome Maris this season, in an era of credible drug testing, he’d have provided the antidote to a season stained by Biogen. The 50/40 achievement is a laudable consolation prize.
Earlier this week, Davis became the first Oriole to combine 40 homers and 40 doubles in a season. Only 11 left-handed hitters have achieved the feat, including Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green of the Blue Jays. His homer on Friday also tied Brady Anderson for the franchise record for homers. The Blue Jays Jose Bautista last reached 50 in the majors, in 2010 with 54.
You know something special is happening when an ice cream flavour is named after someone and, according to the Baltimore Sun, the Charmery in Maryland sprinkles orange candy bits and pieces of Nestle Crunch chocolate bars on a cream base. The flavousr is called the “Crunch Davis,” a play on his nickname.