We probably can’t call the Baltimore Orioles a surprise team anymore.
Last season, the O’s came out of nowhere to challenge for the division crown in the ultra-competitive AL East (home of the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox) and made the playoffs for the first time since 1997. And they’re still rolling this year, 4.5 games out of first in the division and a game back in the AL wild card race.
But what has been a surprise is the Orioles’ Chris Davis.
The Baltimore first baseman has hit 33 home runs and has a comfortable five-homer lead over Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera. He was also named a starter in next week’s MLB All-Star Game (happening July 16 in New York) and will take part in the Home Run Derby on July 15.
Davis has shown power potential before. His career high for homers in a season is 36, but he’ll smash that mark this year and could finish the season with more than 50 if he stays healthy.
But that’s not all Davis is doing well. He’s second overall with 85 RBI and his .320 batting average is good for seventh in the majors. If he can keep his numbers up and raise his batting average, Davis could have a shot at a Triple Crown – when a player finishes a season as the MLB leader in batting average, home runs and RBI.
Before Cabrera won the Crown last season, it hadn’t been done since Carl Yastrzemski of the Red Sox pulled it off in 1967. It’s an incredibly difficult accomplishment, but Davis is putting together a season that might surprise us again.
Most importantly, Davis has kept his team in the playoff hunt.
Baltimore has been in a bit of a slump lately, but Davis’s great play has helped keep the Orioles competitive. They start a four-game home series tonight with the Texas Rangers – who have the top wild card seed – and can gain ground in that race.
With help from other great young players like third baseman Manny Machado and centerfielder Adam Jones, Davis could be make Baltimore an AL East power for a long time to come.
Photo: Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles hits into a run-scoring fielder's choice during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 27, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)