Gonzalez's superb start backed by big home runs
Davis crushes career-high 34th blast; Roberts adds solo shot
BALTIMORE -- Chris Davis got back on track Thursday night, snapping an 0-for-17 skid and eclipsing his career-high in home runs and RBIs before the All-Star break as the Orioles slugger hit his Major League-leading 34th long ball.
Davis' breakout blast, coupled with Brian Roberts' reemergence in hitting his first home run at Camden Yards since Opening Day 2011, was enough for right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, who dominated en route to his seventh consecutive quality start. The 28-year-old righty, one of baseball's best stories last season, continues to be quite the pickup for Baltimore, as Gonzalez held Texas to one run over an impressive 6 2/3 innings to help the Orioles eke out a 3-1 win.
"He's a guy that we all know how special he is and how good he can be, and he proved that tonight," Davis said of Gonzalez, who battled back spasms 30 minutes prior to the game's start.
"He threw the ball really well. He was around the zone, and when a guy is getting ahead of you first-strike, it makes it tough on you. So I was proud of him to go as long as he did and do as well as he did."
The victory ends the four-game set in a 2-2 tie and ensures the third-place Orioles won't lose any ground in the American League East with Boston, Tampa Bay and New York all winning their respective Thursday games. It also improved Gonzalez, who is averaging 6 2/3 innings per start this season, to 5-1 with a 2.49 ERA over his last seven games.
"He had a good changeup and was working his fasball in the upper part of the zone," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Gonzalez, who held the Rangers' 2-5 hitters to one single in 12 at-bats. "His mechanics are so smooth it doesn't look like he's getting it up there very fast, but he must have, because we couldn't square him up."
Gonzalez's 104-pitch outing -- which ended with a standing ovation from a crowd of 21,857 at Camden Yards -- was marred only by Ian Kinsler's sixth-inning homer as the righty pounded the strike zone with 17 of 25 first-pitch strikes.
"I thought my splitter wasn't great today, but my curveball was there, and also my slider, so that helped me out," said Gonzalez, who said his back wasn't an issue once he started warming up. "[Catcher Matt Wieters] is a smart guy. He knows what he's doing, trying to keep guys off balance. I thought it was a great game overall."
It became a memorable one the second Davis let loose on spot starter Ross Wolf's 2-1 changeup against the organization that traded him away. Davis put the O's on the board with a one-out, second-inning solo homer, tying Boog Powell's record -- set in 1969 -- for most RBIs (86) before the All-Star break.
"Somebody asked me, 'Is it good to see Chris hit a homer? He's been struggling.' I said, 'Yeah, we all feel terrible for him. He's got 34 [homers] and 85 [RBIs], It's been a rough go for him,'" Roberts said with a grin, as Davis started to make playful noises several feet away.
"No, he's had a phenomenal year and we wouldn't be where we are without him for sure."
Davis, already the first player in baseball history to have at least 25 doubles, 20 homers and 85 RBIs before the break, continues to put his mark on the record books. Thursday's homer moved him into a tie for the third-most homers in AL history before the break and he's currently on pace for 104 extra-base hits, which would smash the Orioles' club record (92).
"I was just glad to get a hit," said Davis, who won't reflect on what he's done until the season is through. "Got tired of striking out and grounding out and breaking bats. Kind of went on long enough. But I talked about it earlier today about trying to be a little more patient, little bit more selective. And of course after I hit the home run, I go back to swinging at everything. Some lessons are harder to learn than others."
Roberts extended the lead to two in the third inning, connecting for his second homer of the year to start the frame, and Nate McLouth delivered a tack-on RBI with an eighth-inning single off reliever Jason Frasor to give the O's some breathing room.
"It's nice, period," Showalter said of Roberts' homer. "A big hit. Brian turned a big double play for us with a guy right on top of him.
"I think we tried to start out slowly, a couple days at second, some DH days, and we talked a little bit. He can be a contributor for us, and a big contributor. We missed him."
At 91 pitches to start the seventh, Gonzalez got A.J. Pierzynski to fly out and struck out Mitch Moreland before a two-out walk to Jurickson Profar -- the then-tying run -- prompted manager Buck Showalter to go with lefty Troy Patton. The move paid off as Patton struck out David Murphy, and Darren O'Day pitched around a one-out single in the eighth.
In the ninth, Jim Johnson allowed a leadoff single to Adrian Beltre, which was erased by a double play, and got Profar to bounce into a groundout to pick up his league-leading 31st save.
"It's not a must-win situation, but it's certainly two big games," Roberts said. "You don't want to lose three or four at home to a team that you may end up fighting against for a playoff spot, so the last two games were big for us to get two good starts from [Wei-Yin] Chen and Gonzo. And to split it after losing the first two is certainly something we try to build on."