by Todd Karpovich/PressBox
With each swing of the bat, first baseman Chris Davis appears to be setting himself up for a big payday when he hits the free-agent market this offseason.
The slugger continued to dominate opposing pitchers, hitting a go-ahead grand slam in the top of the 10th inning during the Orioles’ 7-3 victory against the Oakland Athletics Aug. 5. That homer allowed Baltimore to take the opening three-game series on a crucial West Coast road trip.
The Orioles will likely be challenged to re-sign Davis, who has 28 home runs on the season and is second in the American League with 79 RBIs, one behind Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson. Davis has put last season’s struggles behind him and once again emerged as one of the game’s most dangerous hitters.
“He’s in a good spot,” manager Buck Showalter said Aug. 5 during his postgame news conference. “He’s been letting the ball travel. Chris is a guy, you run him out there and you like the finished product and the production.”
The Orioles have several tough decisions to make this offseason. In addition to Davis, catcher Matt Wieters, utility man Steve Pearce, right-handed reliever Darren O’Day and left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen are all eligible for free agency. The recently acquired outfielder, Gerardo Parra, can also hit the open market. Right-handed reliever Tommy Hunter, who is also eligible for free agency, was sent to Chicago for minor league outfielder Junior Lake at the non-waiver trade deadline July 31.
Baltimore, however, is simply not thinking that far ahead.
The team is fully focused on making the postseason for the third time in four years. Davis, who has nine homers during his past 15 games, is leading the charge. Just two years ago, he led the majors with 53 home runs, also setting the franchise’s single-season record. Davis has bounced back from last season when he endured some injuries and scuffled at the plate. He was also penalized with a 25-game suspension that forced him to miss the Orioles’ entire playoff run.
None of those issues have carried over this season.
“I think stats are great. You try to take a look at them at the end of the year and assess how you’ve done and where you are,” Davis said Aug. 5 after the victory against Oakland. “For me, right now, my job is to go out and produce every night.”
Baltimore gets to enjoy a rare off-day Aug. 7 before beginning the three-game series with the Angels. The Orioles are 5.5 games behind the Yankees in the American League East and one game out of the Wild Card behind the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Blue Jays.
The Orioles ostensibly control their own fate. They can make up ground on the Angels during a three-game series Aug. 7-9. Baltimore has six games remaining against the Yankees and seven with the Blue Jays.
The Orioles got off to a good start in Oakland, where they had won just eight games since 2008. The challenge now is to finish the road trip strong in Los Angeles and then Seattle (Aug. 10-12).
“You want to start the road trip off winning a series, because now we are going to a couple tough venues,” Showalter said.