Orioles are rolling heading into All-Star break

Chris Davis has led the charge as Baltimore ended first half with win over Blue Jays

  • From left, Chris Tillman, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado pose with their All-Star jerseys before the Orioles' game against Toronto.
From left, Chris Tillman, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy… (Greg Fiume / Getty Images )
July 14, 2013|Kevin Cowherd

Kevin Spacey was in the house. And that, coupled with the broiling heat and humidity — it was cooler in Nicaragua, you can look it up — could have set the tone for all sorts of weirdness for the Orioles.

Instead, they took apart the Toronto Blue Jays in a business-like fashion Sunday with a 7-4 win at Camden Yards to head into the All-Star break winners of four of their past five games, their confidence red-lining with the summer temperatures.

And why wouldn't they be confident, with a lineup — six hitters with more than 43 RBIs — that can bludgeon other teams, led by the best slugger in baseball right now, Chris Davis.

Is this officially getting scary now with Davis or what?

Maybe you heard: the O's big first baseman warmed up for Monday's Home Run Derby at Citi-Field with another monster afternoon against the Jays.

He went 2-for-4 and smacked his major league-leading 37th homer in the third inning, a two-run shot into the left-field stands.

That tied him with Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson for the most by an American Leaguer before the All-Star break. Coupled with his two-run double in the first, Davis now has a whopping 93 RBIs, joining the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera as the only players in MLB history to have 30 homers and 90 ribbies before the All-Star break.

When the media descended on him — that's just what a guy needs after three hours in the hot sun, dozens of TV cameras and microphones in his face — Davis was asked what having such a terrific first half meant to him.

It was a softball question meant to break the ice. Naturally, Davis smacked it out of the park.

"It means I can just take the second half off and coast," Davis deadpanned. Then, after a beat: "No, it's something definitely to be proud of. It means I'm doing my job. But it also speaks volumes about the guys in front of me really getting on base and swinging the bats well."

So now he goes off to New York and the All-Star Game as the biggest story in baseball, if you don't count all the pub Yasiel Puig, the Los Angels Dodgers' phenom, has gotten in the past month.

Now Davis gets to see how many balls he can hit into the stands at Citi Field during the Derby, with O's coach Einar Diaz serving up room-service fastballs just the way Davis likes them.

I asked him Sunday if he's thought about what the night would be like and Davis flashed that Chiclets smile, the one Orioles fans seem to see after just about every game now.

"I'm not really sure," Davis said. "I don't have anything to really compare it to. I expect it to be a lot of fun. I think it's definitely going to be high energy."

Oh, you can bet on that, with a New York crowd screaming its lungs out and a national TV audience on hand and ESPN's Chris Berman making every homer sound like a World Series walk-off shot.

The Derby's become a bit of a snooze for me over the years, mainly because it seems to go on forever. And unless a player goes off on an epic tear like Josh Hamilton did in 2008, with a surreal 28 homers in the opening round and 35 altogether, there's a certain sameness to it all that gets boring.

But if anyone can pump some life into the Derby, it's Davis, who's been discreetly soliciting tips from sluggers who've hit in the Derby in the past.

"I've asked them: 'How're you feeling, how tired do you get, should I pace myself or what?'" he said. "But I don't think it's anything you can simulate."

"Are you nervous?" he was asked.

"Not right now," he said. "I'm sure they'll be a few nerves once I get out there. But hopefully I can get in the groove early."

That's pretty much how the Orioles see themselves right now, in the kind of groove you want to be at the All-Star break.

So many good things seem to be happening to the O's all at once. Adam Jones has cut down on his wild swings and homered in each of the past three games while driving in six runs.

The starting pitching has started to settle down, too. And Jim Johnson seems to have regained his confidence in the all-important closer's role, notching his 33rd save Sunday.

Hey, you want a no-drama, 1-2-3 closer, Johnson's not your guy. This is a guy who's going to give you a near-coronary at times before he finally bears down and slams the door on the other team, just as he did against the Jays.

Deal with it, Orioles fans. Buck Showalter certainly has. And the O's manager seems to like what he's seen from Johnson and the rest of the Orioles lately.

Of course, in typical Buck fashion — you gotta love the guy — he refused to get philosophical when asked what this win meant for his team going into the All-Star break.

Buck, as we know by now, doesn't do philosophical.

"It's a W for Baltimore," he said. "That's what it's about. We got 66 games left, we grinded like heck through the season with all its challenges and have a chance to roll the dice in 66 games and see if we get to play in October."

At this point in the season, that's all any team could ask for.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kevincowherdsun

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