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Chris Davis is not an Oriole who is easily rattled

SportsBaseballChris DavisBaltimore OriolesBoston Red SoxCollege SportsTexas Rangers

Chris Davis strolled to his locker in the Orioles clubhouse Monday and was immediately surrounded by a large scrum of TV cameras, tape recorders and notepads.

He looked at the media mob and flashed an amused smile.

“What do you guys want to talk about?” he asked. “Hitting?”

Uh, not exactly.

No, in the hours before the Orioles began a four-game homestand against the Texas Rangers, Davis’ two-innings of improbable relief pitching in the O’s thrilling 9-6, 17-inning win over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday was still the main topic of conversation at Camden Yards.

As the Orioles’ designated hitter at sun-dappled Fenway Park, Davis had flat-out stunk, striking out five times and grounding into a double play.

But when the Orioles ran out of pitchers and manager Buck Showalter sent him to the mound, all Davis did was calmly throw two scoreless innings to enter the record books. He’s the first player to go 0-for-8 at the plate and get the win in 107 years. (The last to do it? Hall of Famer Rube Waddell for the Philadelphia A’s, in a 20-inning game against Cy Young in 1905. But you knew that.)

And in the giddy 24 hours since his relief outing, Davis had gone from being a relatively obscure corner infielder to the talk of Baltimore and much of the baseball world.

“I had about 60 texts after the game from people giving me a hard time about I should’ve been pitching the whole time, the usual stuff,” he said. “But everyone told me they were proud of the way I hung in there and proud of the way this team is [playing.]”

To many Orioles fans, though, Davis is still largely an unknown commodity. The Orioles acquired him and right-handed starter Tommy Hunter in the July 30 trade that sent reliever Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers.

Davis is 26, quiet, a native of Longview, Texas, and he works tirelessly in the off-season rasing money for various charities.

You know the old Texas saying: he’s all hat, no cattle? Meaning someone who’s all talk and no substance?

Davis is the exact opposite, his teammates say, a cool customer who showed his mettle against the Red Sox by willingly taking on an unfamiliar role and helping the Orioles get a win.

“We kind of teased him about it — he made it look a lot easier than it is,” said Hunter, who was sent down to Triple-A Norfolk on Monday so the Orioles could bring up fresh pitchers.

Yet it wasn’t as if the Orioles handed the ball to a novice who practically needed to be pointed toward the mound.

Davis was a pitcher at Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, and he had signed a letter of intent to pitch at Arkansas before he was drafted by the Rangers. (He was originally selected by the New York Yankees in the 50th round of the 2004 June draft out of Longview High School, but he didn’t sign.)

“I pitched in high school and played shortstop, was never the ace of the staff,” he said. “I closed in junior college, but we blew everybody out and I never really needed to pitch.”

The nearest he came to pitching in an actual major league game was four years ago.

“There was a time in Texas in ’08 and we were playing the Blue Jays and getting the crap beat out of us,” he said. “And I think Stropy [O’s reliever Pedro Strop, a former Ranger] was in. And if he walked the hitter, I was going to go in.”

Davis didn’t get in that time. But when he took the mound against the Red Sox, he wasn’t just throwing a fastball. He was mixing in a split-fingered fastball and a changeup from his old college days, too.

“He said, ‘I got three pitches,’ “Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said with a smile. “I said ‘OK, let’s see ‘em in warmups.’ He threw ‘em all good in warmups.”

He threw them well in the game, too, Wieters said.

Davis showed off a 91-mph fastball with decent movement right away. He struck out Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on an 83-mph changeup in the 16th inning. Slugger Adrian Gonzalez went down swinging on a splitter in the 17th.

Two batters later, Davis got Darnell McDonald — the Red Sox outfielder forced to pitch the 17th when his team, too, ran out of pitchers — to ground into a game-ending double play.

Much has been made of Davis’ coolness on the mound, but Davis insisted it wasn’t so much coolness as exhaustion.

“It was one of those games that really took a lot out of me,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot left in the tank by the time the game was over.”

Still, neither Davis nor his teammates will ever forget what happened Sunday, when a six-hour and seven-minute, 17-inning game devolved into the surreal sight of Davis mowing down Red Sox hitters as the Orioles laughed and cheered and high-fived in the dugout on every pitch.

“You bring in two position players to pitch, it’s funny,” said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. “That’s when you bring out the humor of the game. Everybody’s laughing, everybody’s enjoying it at that point.

“We played 17 innings and everybody was exhausted. It was like a second wind for everybody.”

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsBaseballChris DavisBaltimore OriolesBoston Red SoxCollege SportsTexas Rangers
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