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2012 MLB Surprises: Chris Davis' Pitching Prowess?

Aaron Fischman |
May 11, 2012 | 4:59 p.m. PDT

Senior Sports Editor

Chris Davis does most of his damage with a bat. Not this time! (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
Chris Davis does most of his damage with a bat. Not this time! (Keith Allison/Creative Commons)
As we approach mid-May, the NBA and NHL playoffs are in full swing and many are still buzzing about the NFL Draft. In a time where so many exciting sports are being televised, baseball is doing what it can to demand your attention. In case you hadn't noticed, some rather strange things have already occured barely more than a month into the season.

Chris Davis Makes History in Unique Way – Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis threw two scoreless innings and reached 90 miles per hour en route to an extra-innings victory on Sunday afternoon. Read the previous sentence again. Pitchers throw 90+ and cruise to two scoreless innings all the time, but Chris Davis is not a pitcher. He’s a first baseman. A first baseman! He hadn’t pitched in six years since his junior college days, but manager Buck Showalter was desperate. The game was headed for the bottom of the 16th and Showalter had been using relievers since the fifth inning. There were no starters left. To make things worse, the Orioles had played a 13-inning contest two days earlier. The bullpen was officially depleted.      

This qualifies as a surprise, because pitching at the big-league level is extremely difficult. I don’t care how much prior pitching experience Davis had. This feat was remarkable. Let’s think about rust. A hitter may be rusty after spending a month on the disabled list, but not pitching for six years and then suddenly being asked to face guys like Adrian Gonzalez and Dustin Pedroia? Forget about it. Davis threw ridiculously fast and even mixed in some splitters. Mad props!

Facing a similar situation as Showalter, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine brought outfielder Darnell McDonald in to pitch the 17th. But unlike Davis, McDonald couldn't play the role his manager asked of him. After grooving a pitch right down the middle, McDonald watched as Adam Jones' three-run home run sailed over the Green Monster. This was an important reminder why position players aren’t supposed to pitch. It also emphasized how impressive Davis’ outing really was.

Accompanying anecdote #1: Sunday’s game was the first time position players earned both the winning and losing decisions in a game since Sept. 28, 1902, according to the Elias Sports Bureau (via Jayson Stark). 

Accompanying anecdote #2: Ironically, Davis turned in a miserable hitting performance in the game. He went hitless in eight at bats, including striking out five times and grounding into a 13th inning double play. For Davis’ sake, let’s all be happy he was able to redeem himself. McDonald was not. The poor guy grounded into a game-ending double play after allowing a three-run bomb in the top half of the 17th.


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