BALTIMORE – Cemented together by a seven-year contract, the Baltimore Orioles and Chris Davis are staggering toward the finish of a historically horrid season for both the franchise and former home run king.
With 35 games to go, Davis is batting .163. He’s on track to break the record for lowest batting average by a qualifier since 1900, .179 by Rob Deer in 1991 and Dan Uggla in 2013.
That’s one glaring reason why Baltimore owns the worst record in the big leagues (37-90). The Orioles will need a late surge to better the 54-107 ledger of 1989, the low-water mark since the team moved from St. Louis in 1954, and are still a threat to top the franchise mark of 111 defeats, set in 1939 by the Browns.
The Orioles went into full rebuilding mode in late July, trading away stars Manny Machado, Zach Britton and Jonathan Schoop. The 32-year-old Davis, who played for the Spokane Indians in 2006, doesn’t fit into the team’s plan to get younger, but his hefty contract – which does not expire until after the 2022 season – makes him impossible to unload.
So, the best the Orioles can hope for is that he ultimately rediscovers his swing.
“Chris is a guy that can get going and really do a lot of damage for a club for an extended period of time,” manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles were a contender when they signed Davis to a $161 million contract in January 2016. Davis was coming off a season in which he hit a major-league leading 47 homers and had totaled 159 long balls and 412 RBIs over the previous four years, helping Baltimore reach the playoffs twice during that span.
His batting average dipped from .262 to .221 in 2016, but he had 38 home runs and 84 RBIs during a year in which the Orioles entered the postseason as a wild card.
Davis battled an oblique injury last season and hit .215 with 26 home runs in 128 games. He subsequently hit bottom this year: He’s struck out 158 times, gotten only 63 hits and has 15 home runs and 41 RBIs.
A pair of two-hit games over his last seven starts, however, provided a small measure of hope that maybe – just maybe – he can shake this extended slump.
“I think it’s really taking it one at-bat at a time. Not getting too high or too low,” Davis said. “Not trying to hit a home run, but just going up there and trying to be a hitter.”
He hears boos at Camden Yards after every strikeout. Throughout it all, Davis has strived to keep an even keel.
“It’s too easy a lot of times to get caught up in the negative and sometimes even to get caught up in the positive and let your guard down,” he said. “For me, I want to finish up strong. I want to work on some things and go into the offseason with a head of steam.”
Any momentum would be perceived as a plus.
“That’s a big part of it,” Davis said, “just trying to get something going and seeing how long I can make it last.”
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