BALTIMORE, MD — Hitting the ball sharply and getting good distance on his outs now counts as progress for struggling Chris Davis, whose futility at the plate has earned him another dubious major league record.
Davis went 0 for 5 to set the big league mark for the longest hitless streak by a position player, extending his drought to 49 consecutive at-bats in the Baltimore Orioles' 12-4 rout of the Oakland Athletics on Monday night.
Davis hit three flyballs before striking out in the seventh and eighth innings, leaving him 0 for 28 this season and 0 for 49 since hitting a double early in a game Sept. 14. The previous longest drought by a non-pitcher was 46 at-bats, by Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Eugenio Velez.
The highlight of Davis' night was an opposite-field liner to the edge of the warning track in left field on his record-setting 47th straight fruitless at-bat.
"He hit three balls on the nose," manager Brandon Hyde said. "So I'm taking that as a positive moving forward. Hopefully it's a good start."
Davis has heard plenty of boos from the home crowd this season, but many among a meager crowd of 6,585 at Camden Yards offered him encouragement with every trip to the plate. The announced attendance was the lowest in the history of the ballpark, with the exception of a game in 2015 that was closed to the public at a time when the city was plagued by rioting.
Velez went hitless over his last nine at-bats of the 2010 season before going 0 for 37 in 2011, the last of his five major league seasons.
His 0-for-46 skid eclipsed the previous longest hitless streak of 45, shared by Pittsburgh's Bill Bergen (1909), Dave Campbell of San Diego and St. Louis (1973), and Milwaukee's Craig Counsell (2011).
Now, Davis owns a second unwanted record. He hit .168 last year, the worst batting average in major league history for a qualified player. Davis is in the fourth season of a $161 million, seven-year contract that has proven to be a hindrance to the rebuilding Orioles. The 33-year-old has two RBIs this season -- on a bases-loaded walk and a forceout -- and has struck out 15 times.
"Tough to put yourself in his shoes and what he's going through," Hyde said. "I admire him for being out there and playing his butt off. I'm just pulling for him to get a hit and for the ball to hit the outfield grass somewhere. It didn't. It's one of those things. You've got to stay upbeat, stay positive. He's battling. It's cool to see."