Last night Chris Davis became the first Oriole to hit three home runs in one game since Nick Markakis did it as a rookie on August 22, 2006. Sadly, I'm fresh out of Davis cards, so Nick will have to do.
I was fortunate to be in attendance for last night's power display by Davis, as I took my girlfriend Janet to her first O's game in several years. Before the first pitch, the team observed a moment of silence for Mike Flanagan, who tragically took his own life one year ago to the day. In contrast, the Birds later wished Cal Ripken, Jr. a happy 52nd birthday via a scoreboard message.
Before Chris Davis began swinging for the fences, young lefty Zach Britton got the game started the right way by retiring the Blue Jays in order in the first inning. It was a nice contrast to the last Friday night start by Britton in Camden Yards, when he surrendered four runs to Oakland on July 27. Zach had an excellent night on this occasion, allowing just two runs on four hits and two walks in six and two-thirds innings with six strikeouts to earn his third win of the season.
Davis led off the bottom of the second inning with the Orioles trailing 1-0. I was in the process of explaining to Janet that he was notorious for his prodigious power and his penchant for striking out. I said something to the effect of "Once every four at-bats he'll crush the hell out of the ball, but the other three times -", but I was interrupted by the crack of the bat. I looked up to see Toronto pitcher Carlos Villanueva's first offering to Chris already soaring through the air, bound for Eutaw Street. Tie game. Way to shut me up, Crush.
It looked like Villanueva had calmed down after Davis introduced himself; he set down the next eight batters in a row. Of course, that brought things back around to the O's designated hitter. With two outs in the home half of the fourth, Chris toyed with his opponent a bit, working a 2-2 count before serving one up into the right field bleachers to give the Birds a 2-1 lead. It was his 22nd round-tripper of the year, a new personal best.
Nearing 100 pitches on the night, Villanueva started to tire in the sixth inning. Back-to-back hits by Nate McLouth and Adam Jones and a shallow sac fly by Matt Wieters bumped the Baltimore lead to two runs. With Jones on second base and Davis due up, Jays manager John Farrell didn't give Chris another chance to take the starter deep. He called on righty reliever Steve Delabar, who had allowed one home run to lefty batters all season. Whoops. With a seemingly effortless flick of the wrists, Davis drove Delabar's second pitch to the opposite field. I laughed incredulously as the ball sailed over the head of left fielder Rajai Davis and into the seats for a two-run homer. I was on my feet with the rest of the 25,754 in attendance at Oriole Park; we roared our approval as Chris poked his head back out of the dugout for a curtain call.
Thanks to a small rally in the seventh that pushed across a sixth Oriole run, Chris Davis batted second in the bottom of the eighth with a chance to make history. Though he struck out swinging, we gave him one last standing ovation for his great effort. He became the 19th player in O's history to homer thrice in one game, and secured an even rarer achievement. Thanks to his successful two-inning relief stint in Boston on May 6, Chris is now the fourth major leaguer ever to earn a pitching win and hit three home runs in one game all in one season. Of course, two of the others were pitchers, and the third was Babe Ruth, who had been a regular pitcher years before turning the trick in 1930. I guess Chris Davis likes operating on a difficulty curve.
As a final footnote, I've already been to 12 O's games in 2012. With last night's outburst, I have now seen Chris Davis hit 8 of his 15 home runs at Camden Yards! Maybe I'm a good luck charm.