Davis adds new comeback chapter His 2-RBI single in 4th is key blow vs. Johnson

October 02, 1997|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- Eric Davis spent about 15 minutes in the interview room at the Kingdome yesterday, touching on the usual subjects: cancer, chemotherapy, life.

Unlike the players before him, Davis didn't field one baseball-related question, at least none pertaining to the Division Series and his pending matchup with Seattle's Randy Johnson. But he didn't seem to mind, understanding the media's fascination with his comeback and the details behind it.

Davis made sure there were no more inquiries, rose from his chair, went out onto the field and provided more copy.

After striking out in his first two at-bats, Davis bounced a single into left field in the fifth inning, scoring two runs and padding the Orioles' lead to 4-1. It was his final swing of the night, and it might have been the biggest blow to land on the Big Unit.

Manager Davey Johnson had B. J. Surhoff pinch hit in the sixth, then moved Jeffrey Hammonds from left to right field. All that remained for Davis was to finish off a plate of apple pie and wade through another crowd of reporters.

"I'm just blessed to put my uniform on," he said after the Orioles' 9-3 victory in Game 1. "Whether I got a hit or not or whether we won the game or not, I still consider myself a winner. I was blessed enough to have the tumor removed in time where it didn't spread through my body and I feel good. This is the best right now."

Before his hit, the night had been a steady struggle for Davis -- with Randy Johnson, with himself and with plate umpire Tim McClelland, who called strikes on two inside pitches that had Davis jumping back.

After Jeff Reboulet sacrificed the runners to second and third with one out in the fifth, Johnson got ahead of Davis 1-2. With the massive crowd rising to its feet again, as it had each time the left-hander got two strikes on a hitter, Davis chopped a low fastball into the artificial turf, causing it to spring over the head of third baseman Mike Blowers. Davis rounded first, then clapped his hands.

The rout was on, and Davis had flipped the switch.

"I'm just looking for the ball and to not swing at a bad pitch and try to put the bat on it," he said. "Anytime you get a hit is the right kind of hit, no matter how you get it. I was fortunate to stay on top of the ball. I wanted to make sure I made solid contact."

This was Davis' first taste of the postseason since Game 4 of the the 1990 World Series, when he dived for a ball and lacerated his right kidney, missing the wild celebration that ensued after the Cincinnati Reds had completed their sweep of the Oakland Athletics.

He was forced out of baseball five years later with a herniated disk in his neck, made a smashing return with the Reds in 1996, then had to fight the battle of his life.

And yet, when asked how much he appreciated being here, Davis remained low-key.

"I'm no more appreciative than the other 25 guys and the coaches and the management of this ballclub. I'm just a small part of this organization," he said.

"This was the goal that we had from the time we got down to spring training. This club went to the ALCS last year but came up short. That's what everybody's focus was, to get back to the postseason and put ourselves in the situation to compete for a world championship."

Davis looks poised to make a run for it. He went 4-for-5 in Saturday's win in Milwaukee, including his first home run since colon-cancer surgery in June, then collected two hits the next day to get his average back over .300 and convince Davey Johnson he was strong enough to handle a heavier load.

He'll be in the lineup again today against Mariners left-hander Jamie Moyer, then receive his 10th chemotherapy treatment tomorrow. How he responds, especially with the treatment coming the same day he arrives home from Seattle, will determine if he plays in Game 3 on Saturday at Camden Yards against another left-hander, Jeff Fassero.

For Davis, the added pleasure of last night's game was sharing the field with Jerome Walton, who started at first base after another injury-marred season.

"It's contagious when you get in a clubhouse with guys like this who grind all year long," Davis said. "You come back and feel like you've got to do the same thing. It's a big motivational factor between all of us. Everybody pushes each other. You go out there and battle. That's what Jerome did, and that's what I did to get back to the postseason."

Pub Date: 10/03/97

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