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Longview's Davis big reason Orioles are in playoff chase

By David Driver, Special to the News-Journal
Sept. 27, 2012 at 11 p.m.


BALTIMORE - The 2012 Major League Baseball season has been a memorable one for Chris Davis, a Longview High School graduate who is winding up his first full year in the big leagues with the Baltimore Orioles.

Davis, mostly a first baseman/DH with the Texas Rangers, hit three homers in a game against Toronto in August and became the first American League position player since 1968 to earn a win as a pitcher when he beat the Red Sox with two scoreless innings at Fenway Park in May.

He went deep twice and drove in five runs in a 12-2 win over Toronto on Wednesday, and was hitting .267 with 28 home runs and 77 RBIs heading into the team's day off on Thursday. In his last 10 games, Davis is hitting .308 with two home runs, eight RBIs, 10 strikeouts and six walks, and he'll carry a six-game hitting streak into action tonight when the Orioles host Boston.

The success of the Orioles - and how they have won - may be even more dramatic.

Baltimore, which last had a winning season in 1997, was 27-9 in one-run games through Monday and was 16-2 in extra-inning games, including that wild win at Boston in May. Baltimore has allowed more runs than it has scored this season.

But the Orioles were 89-67 after Wednesday's win and 1.5 games back of first-place New York in the American League East Division.

"It has been amazing," said Davis, standing next to the posted lineup on a wall inside the Baltimore clubhouse before Tuesday's game. "I think everyone wants to be part of a winning team and I know everyone wants to be in the post-season. It has been a lot of fun."

The Orioles begin a three-game series at home with the Red Sox today before ending regular-season play in Tampa Bay. Baltimore knocked Boston out of the playoff hunt on the last day of regular-season play in 2011.

"We just have to win ballgames, however we need to do that," Davis said. "We just have to find a way to win every game and not worry about what the Yankees do or what the A's do."

Davis, 26, a left-handed slugger, became just the fourth player in Major League history to get a win as a pitcher and hit three homers in a game in the same season. The lists includes Guy Hecker (1886 Louisville), Babe Ruth (1930 Yankees) and Jim Tobin, who played for the Red Sox in 1942.

"His power is second to none," said Baltimore outfielder Nate McLouth. "Even when he is not hitting, that presence has an impact in the lineup."

Davis' teammates are still talking about the batting practice show he put on during a road trip to Oakland earlier in September. One of the balls he hit broke a luxury box window.

"That was one of the furthest I have seen a ball hit," said Orioles' rookie outfielder L.J. Hoes, who was named the Minor League player of the year for Baltimore on Tuesday. "It is amazing to see him take batting practice. He has been here all year and doing well."

Davis has adjusted to playing a full season in the big leagues.

"It has been a good year. I am proud of how I have handled some of the different challenges," said Davis, who had not played outfield on a regular basis until this year. "I have been able to go out and play ever day and that has been a blessing."

Davis was drafted by Texas in 2006 out of Navarro College and made his debut with the Rangers two years later. He was traded by the Rangers to Baltimore during the 2011 season. This will be the first year that he has not seen action in the minors as a pro.

"There is no guarantee," said Davis, when asked if this year's success means he will never see the minors again. "I am happy with the way I have played this year. There are ways I can improve, obviously. My goal has always been to go out there and have fun and play as hard as I can and not worry about the other stuff."

The Orioles have used several minor leaguers and journeymen to keep pace with the Yankees this year.

"It is something we have had to do because of injuries," Davis said. "We have had a lot of guys step up. A lot of guys have come up from Triple A and gave us a boost."

Davis said being with a new team has helped his career.

"I got a fresh start. I came to a place where I knew I was wanted and a place I could play every day. I have played a lot of different positions this year," he said.

If the Orioles have a good weekend against the Red Sox, they could nail down a post-season spot for the first time since 1997.

"They are a different team this year," Davis said of Boston. "They have traded away a lot of their players. Nobody is going to roll over and play dead."

(David Driver is a free-lance writer based in Maryland who has covered the Orioles for more than 20 years. He can be reached at www.davidsdriver.com).

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