The winning pitcher
Here’s some extra stuff on Orioles’ infielder Chris Davis –who last pitched for Navarro (Tex.) Junior College in 2006 – and his two scoreless innings in Sunday’s 9-6, 17-inning, series-sweeping win in Boston. (Note, y0u can watch some of the highlights of the final innings in a video clip here, and read my full recap here.)
The 26-year-old Davis literally went from zero-to-hero in Sunday’s win, which puts the Orioles in first place in the American League East. According to Elias, Davis is the first player to go 0-for-8 at the plate and wind up as the winning pitcher since Rube Waddell on July 4, 1905.
Asked his reaction when manager Buck Showalter told him to go out to the bullpen and start getting loose, Davis –who was still wearing a hint of shaving cream after getting a pie in the face and a beer shower – grinned and said: “I’m like sweet, I get to try something different today because hitting ain’t working.”
Pitching sure did. Davis, who struck out five times in eight hitless at-bats, took the mound in the bottom of the 16th as a last resort for Baltimore, which had used every reliever in its standout bullpen and held Boston to one run over the previous 10 2/3 innings.
Using a fastball that topped out at 91 mph, Davis recorded a strikeout and flyout before Marlon Byrd reached on Betemit’s error. The game looked to be over when Mike Aviles sent a ball into the gap, but Adam Jones –who delivered the winning three-run homer off Red Sox DH/pitcher Darnell McDonald — made a good relay throw to shortstop J.J. Hardy. Hardy, who homered twice in route to collecting a career-high five hits, turned and fired home to catcher Matt Wieters who did an excellent job blocking the plate and put the tag on Byrd in an unbelievable sequence.
“He was throwing about 89, sinking it,” Byrd said of Davis, who signed a letter of intent to pitch and play first base at Arizona before deciding to go pro. “I think he threw [catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia] a changeup. He threw one breaking ball.”
Actually, it was a split-finger, a correction Davis –who wore an ear-to-ear grin the entire interview – made half in jest. While he had a hard time keeping a straight face –with ice on his arm afterwards and a brief playful interjection by Mark Reynolds – the right-hander did admit that pitching in the big leagues is harder than it looks.
The Orioles also sent Brian Matusz, Monday’s scheduled starter, out to the ‘pen so why not go with him over Davis?
“It was a consideration, but after I thought about it, I wasn’t going to throw a whole pitching staff in disarray and jeopardize a guy who’s throwing the ball real well,” Showalter said. “We had a lot of wheels turning in our organization that shouldn’t be turning. I’m sure Bobby [Valentine] felt the same way. You reach a point in the game where you’re getting diminishing returns, so you’ve got to keep that in mind.”
Davis, who got two game balls — for his first Major League win and strikeout of Saltalamacchia –said he seriously didn’t even know what happened out there, joking that he blacked out.
“After the first inning I was just trying to get it over the plate, and I was like ‘this is a lot harder than it looks’,” he said. “I told myself to start using my legs so I didn’t blow my arm out or anything like that. But in all seriousness, to get a win like that here, to end a roadtrip like this, it’s huge. Neither team wanted to lose today, especially when it goes to extra innings. I mean, they would have pulled people out of the stands to finish that game. It’s just a huge win for us.”
Showalter, who previously managed Texas, was familiar with Davis’ pitching background and given that he was DH –and wouldn’t cost the team the DH spot — decided to turn the ball, and the game, over to Davis.
“They all think they can pitch until you get out there,” Showalter said. “I was always the designated guy who had to pitch when the team was getting blown out in Triple-A with Johnny Oates. Until you remove that screen and see how close that batter is and how close that wall is, it’s a whole different gig. Chris has some experience with it. The other guy was Nicky [Markakis]. I waited as long as I could before I had to break it to Chris. It’s not something you want a guy thinking about for a long time. I just basically said, ‘Get your glove, go down and warm up. You’re in next inning unless we score.'”
And so Davis took the mound to face the bottom of Boston’s order, with catcher Matt Wieters greeting him for a quick mound meeting. Wieters’ words of advice?
“Don’t blow it out. Just throw strikes,” Wieters said. “That was pretty much all I said to him. That’s probably the easiest 89-91 I’ve ever seen. He came out and threw strikes and had a little movement on it. That was pretty impressive.”
What was Wieters’ initial reaction when he saw that bullpen door swing open?
“I knew we had no other option,” he said. “We were running low. There were a lot of position players getting loose real quick. It’s good that he was DHing, and that he was able to come in and pitch He threw strikes. That’s what we needed him to do.”