BALTIMORE — Chris Davis is living up to the nickname he was tagged with five years ago during his rookie season with the Texas Rangers.
The moniker “Crush Davis” has never been more appropriate for the Baltimore Orioles first baseman.
Davis leads the majors with 20 home runs, ranks second with 52 RBIs and is batting .357. He had 33 homers last year, but this season the he is driving the ball out at a more impressive pace and spraying hits to all fields.
Behind Davis’ play, Baltimore has been able to build upon last season’s surprising success.
“He’s a tremendous hitter and he’s swinging the bat well,” Orioles third baseman Manny Machado said. “It’s impressive, crazy to watch.”
Crazy, in that Davis began the season with a lifetime .258 batting average and 77 homers in 1,520 at-bats. He attributes his lofty numbers this season to some advice he got from a former teammate with the Rangers.
“A long time ago Michael Young told me this is a game of routines and you really need to hammer a routine down,” Davis said. “It took me a while to kind of understand what he meant. I’d come in here and put my socks on the same way, but I don’t think it’s something as little as that. I think it’s more about being consistent in your approach and your daily work.”
Each day, Davis hits off a tee before taking batting practice. He lifts weights when his body isn’t weary, and when he steps into the batting cage, his focus extends beyond teeing off on the grooved fastballs.
“It’s important for a position player to have a routine because they’re in there almost every day,” Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel said. “You can see it with Chris. Every day he’s in the weight room. Just looking at his first round in batting practice, he’s always working (to hit) the other way.
“There is a process to the madness,” Hammel concluded. “He’s been able to repeat what he’s trying to do because of his routine.”
In his last 23 games, Davis is batting .419 with 10 doubles, nine walks, 11 homers, 23 runs scored and 22 RBIs. He was a one-man wrecking ball last week against the Washington Nationals, going 8 for 15 with three homers to help Baltimore take three of four.
“Yeah, he’s been awful hot,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “He’s too good of a hitter to make a mistake against right now.”
Davis has reached via a hit or walk in 50 of 56 games and hasn’t been held hitless in three straight outings at any point in this season.
“He’s just been consistent. And when people are consistent in the way they live their life, they have a chance to be consistent in baseball and sports, too,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We’re proud of him. He’s getting back what he’s putting into it. That’s not always the case, but the baseball gods let you off, and Chris has had a lot of people thinking he couldn’t do what he’s doing.”
Not even Davis could anticipate this kind of season.
“You can’t predict stuff like this,” he said. “I think it’s a reward for hard work. I just go out there every day and try to make smart decisions and not swing at everything, but be a little patient.”
Heck, Davis is so locked in, even the bad pitches thrown his way end up on the other side of the outfield wall.
“If you go back through a lot of home runs he hits, a lot of them aren’t strikes,” Showalter said. “That’s a tough combination for a pitcher because you’ve really got to get out of the zone to do something. He’s in a good place, obviously.”
Davis homered in his first games as a rookie with Texas in 2008. That, and his power stroke, got him the nickname of “Crush Davis” — a takeoff on Crash Davis, from the movie “Bull Durham.”
But he bounced back and forth from the Rangers to the minors until, just before the trading deadline in 2011, Texas dealt him and pitcher Tommy Hunter to the Orioles for reliever Koji Uehara.
He’s been a fixture in the Baltimore lineup ever since. Davis probably won’t continue at a pace to hit .350, but should he get in a slump, don’t expect him to make any radical changes in his pregame preparation.
“You’re always working on things, whether you’re locked or struggling,” he said. “Just the consistent approach every day has helped me out, the routine. I heard for such a long time that routine was such a big part of this game. I’ve really found one that I like and I’ve continued to do that.”