It only seemed as though Chris Davis was a one-man wrecking crew in helping the Baltimore Orioles get off to another promising start.
The hottest hitter in baseball homered for the third consecutive day and drove in four runs Thursday in a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Davis went 7 of 11 with three homers, three doubles and a major league-leading 11 RBI in helping the Orioles win two of three games in the season-opening series. He drove in four for the second day in a row, hitting a two-run homer in the second inning and a two-run double that broke a 2-2 tie against Roberto Hernandez (0-1) in the sixth.
”It’s awesome, but at the same time, it’s about winning baseball games,” Davis said. ”I’ve basically just been trying to keep it simple. Do my job. We’ve got a lot of guys in this lineup that can do a lot of things with the bat, and we’ve proven that over the last three days.”
Adam Jones had three more hits, giving him seven in a series that saw the three-four-five spots in Baltimore’s lineup go 17 for 37 with four homers, six doubles, 13 runs scored and 15 RBI.
Davis was a big part of that production, joining Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (1966) as the only Orioles player in three consecutive games to begin the season. Only three players in major league history — Willie Mays, Mark McGwire and Nelson Cruz — have homered in four in a row to start a season.
Davis hit a three-run homer in Baltimore’s 7-4 victory on opening day, then had another three-run homer and drove in four runs in an 8-7 loss to the Rays on Wednesday night. The first baseman has gone deep in nine of his last 10 regular-season games and is the first player in Orioles history with multiple RBI in the first three games of a season.
”I feel comfortable in the box. Obviously, we’ve had quite a few runners on when I’m up at the plate, which is always fun. You get a hit, those guys are going to score,” Davis said. ”We played really well with the exception of the game in the middle, we just kind of let that get away from us, but I think it’s definitely a series to be happy with it.”
Miguel Gonzalez (1-0) allowed two runs and four hits over 6 1/3 innings. The Orioles’ bullpen protected the lead, with Jim Johnson entering in the ninth to earn his second save after Brian Matusz allowed two runners to reach base.
The victory may have come at a price for the Orioles, though.
Second baseman Brian Roberts singled in the ninth and injured his right hamstring stealing second base. He was helped off the field and will have a MRI examination Friday.
Roberts, who missed most of last season with several injuries, said he felt something kind of pop behind his right knee during the last couple steps to second base.
”We’ll re-assess it tomorrow and see where we are,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ”He’s in some discomfort.”
Evan Longoria trimmed Tampa Bay’s deficit to 6-3 with a long flyball that went off the wall in left-centerfield for what turned out to be a single.
A potential big inning for the Rays fizzled when Longoria was called out for passing Ben Zobrist on the bases as he headed into second for what should have been a double.
Zobrist, who had been holding up to see if the ball was caught, proceeded to third, where he was stranded.
”I was going back to the bag to tag if they caught the ball. It was a mistake really, a baserunning mistake,” Zobrist said.
”It’s one of those things you’re taught to always keep your head up,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. ”It’s just like whenever you hit a car from behind. Whose fault is it? It’s unfortunate. … Longo feels terrible about it, I’m sure.”
Hernandez, the 32-year-old right-hander formerly known as Fausto Carmona, made his first start for Tampa Bay — ending a stretch of 1,060 consecutive games by the Rays without using a starting pitcher 31 years or older, a streak that began in June 2006. All but 34 of those games during the streak were started by a pitcher under the age of 30, the exception being James Shields’ 33 starts in 2012 and one by Jae Seo on the right-hander’s 30th birthday in 2007.
Gonzalez held the Rays hitless until fifth, when Tampa Bay scored twice even though none of the four groundball singles they strung together in the inning were struck well.
James Loney drove in the first run off Gonzalez with a single to center and Jose Molina made it 2-2 with a single to almost the same spot.
The Orioles answered quickly.
Nick Markakis drew a one-out walk, Adam Jones singled for his third hit of the day, and Davis lined his two-run double into the gap in left-center field for a 4-2 lead. J.J. Hardy’s two-run homer off Cesar Ramos made it 6-2 in the eighth.
Hernandez, who hit Davis with a pitch in the fourth, allowed four runs, six hits, two walks and struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings.
The start by Hernandez also stopped two other long streaks by the Rays — 1,207 consecutive games without using a starting pitcher signed as a free agent and 1,693 games without using a starting pitcher signed as a major league free agent. … Orioles DH Wilson Betemit, who sprained a right knee ligament during an exhibition game on March 25, underwent exploratory arthroscopic surgery Wednesday. He could return in six to eight weeks. … Baltimore RHP Steve Johnson (strained right lat) has started a long throwing program. … Baltimore is still planning to activate RHP Chris Tillman (strained left abdominal muscle) from the 15-day DL to start Saturday’s game against Minnesota. … Orioles RHP prospect, Dylan Bundy, will start the season on the seven-day DL at Double-A Bowie because of right forearm tightness. … The Orioles claimed RHP Josh Stinson on waivers from Oakland and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk.