Orioles brace for a weekend with the Red Sox
By Steve Katz
Matt Wieters rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against Kansas City Wednesday. Photo: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
If Chris Davis faced the question of why he hasn’t been himself since the All-Star Break, would he cite the Home Run Derby as a contributing cause of his slump?
How would I define slump, you ask? At least a strikeout a game in his last 19 games, including four last night against Kansas City. Those 19 games also include the four in a row right before the All Star Game in which he hit a homer. He struck out at least once in each of those four games, too. It just escaped notice at the time, because it didn’t hurt anything. But now, he hasn’t hit one out since then – not even while the Baltimore Orioles were winning five in a row coming off the four-day break.
Is it the torn callus? He said he pops a blister on his hand around this time every year (sorry if you’re eating dinner). The huge irony is that Davis’ downturn coincidences with an uptick in two other trends Orioles fans had been begging for: Adam Jones drawing more walks in front of Davis, and Matt Wieters getting hot behind him. The most natural thing to think is that this would have gotten Davis better pitches to hit, but he has looked fooled or chased a lot of offerings for several games now.
While that problem is working itself out, as the experts say these things do, a couple of other worrisome incidents came up last night, as the Orioles closed an unexpectedly mediocre, 4-3 road trip with a second straight loss to Kansas City. One couldn’t be helped – a sinking liner to left field by Nate McLouth that was trapped but ruled a catch, nipping a bigger inning in the bud. There wasn’t an umpire near the play because no one ran out to see it, and either it was not a play on which the umpiring crew would check the replay, or they just decided not to, despite Buck Showalter very politely asking one of them if it was just possible he may have erred.
That stole a chance for more runs. Another incident led to a Kansas City run, that being when Jones missed the cutoff man in the next inning, allowing a runner to take second on a throw (read: missile) to the plate. The runner taking second scored on a hit one batter later. These two incidents set the early tone, which the Royals capitalized on by knocking Miguel Gonzalez out in the 5th inning.
Henry Urrutia has been looking mostly impressive in his first week with the Orioles, but even so, a dependable big bat is becoming a more pressing need before the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline descends.
In the meantime, the Boston Red Sox descend for three games starting tonight, and most of Baltimore is hoping Camden Yards is the tonic that the bats of Davis and the slumping Manny Machado need. Commentators have been predicting a Red Sox downturn for a while because of a succession of injuries to the back end of their bullpen. It might not matter if the Orioles don’t hit, and against a team as good as the Red Sox, overthrown missiles to the plate won’t help, either.