How bad are things for Orioles first baseman/futilityman Chris Davis? He’s so lost at the plate right now, he’s losing pitching assignments over it.
Baltimore got walloped by the Yankees 15-3 on Sunday, so to spare the bullpen manager Brandon Hyde brought in a position player to pitch. Davis was the only Oriole in the dugout with major-league pitching experience, going two scoreless innings and picking up a win in a 17-inning game in 2012. He was also a star pitcher in high school. But Hyde went with Hanser Alberto instead of Davis. Why? “I didn’t want to put the spotlight on him,” Hyde said.
There may be no way of avoiding it. Davis is now 0 for his last 44 and two outs away from tying the longest hitless streak in baseball history: an 0-for-46 stretch that took Eugenio Velez two teams and more than a full calendar year to accomplish, and after which he never played in the big leagues again. Davis has compiled his historic ohfer in much shorter time, dating back to Sept. 14 of last season, because he’s still getting paid $23 million this year and for each of the next three years, and the Orioles aren’t exactly a team that wants to accept a sunk cost (nor are they a team that’s actively trying to win).
In 2019 alone, Davis is 0-for-23 with 13 strikeouts. He was 0-for-4 with two more Ks on Sunday.
“I hope that he feels like he’s making progress,” Hyde said. “He took a couple decent passes on those fly balls [on Sunday]. Just didn’t happen.”
It hasn’t happened in a while, so here we are. And Monday could be the day for Davis, and history. Righthander Marco Estrada will start for Oakland, and Davis has been in the lineup primarily against righties this year. (Last season he hit .178 against righties, which only looks bad until you see how he did against lefties.)
One more hitless at-bat would tie him with Bill Bergen (1909), Dave Campbell (1973), and Craig Counsell (2011), two more would tie him with Velez, and three more would give him the record outright. (Davis is also six hitless plate appearances away from Tony Bernazard’s MLB record of 57, set in 1984.)
And whether Davis ultimately breaks the inglorious record or snaps his streak with a hit, maybe the Orioles will let him pitch again.