PHOENIX - Renato Núñez can belt home runs as the designated hitter, first baseman or third baseman. He can launch baseballs in his sleep, though rounding the bases is harder to do if you tuck the sheets.
Manager Brandon Hyde will pick a position or a role and let Núñez feast. It’s become one of his easiest decisions. Just keep the guy in the middle of the lineup.
Núñez hit his team-leading 24th home run tonight in the second and Anthony Santander delivered a two-run shot before Merrill Kelly could record an out in the inning. Dwight Smith Jr. joined the party with a three-run shot in the third and the Orioles turned the homer tables on the Diamondbacks with a 7-2 victory at Chase Field.
Dylan Bundy came off the injured list and held the Diamondbacks to two runs in six innings, and the Orioles improved to 32-68 overall. They’ve won 10 of their last 20 games.
The sixth quality start of the season for Bundy included only four hits allowed, three walks and five strikeouts. He was removed after 94 pitches, with Núñez starting a 5-4-3 double play on a Christian Walker grounder in the sixth.
Bundy struck out in both at-bats and didn’t have to run the bases, much to Hyde’s delight.
Núñez’s ball traveled 424 feet to left field with an exit velocity of 112.5 mph per Statcast, a typical seam-busting blow. Santander’s homer was measured at 415 feet to right field with an exit velo of 108 mph.
Big boy bashing.
Núñez also had an RBI single in the third, pulling another pitch into left field, and Smith followed with his first home run since June 4 in Texas, where he also had six RBIs and ran into a wall two nights later.
Smith was 0-for-33 before collecting a hit in his last four games. And he’s avoided the walls.
Kelly ran into a buzz saw tonight.
The Orioles drafted Kelly in the 37th round in 2007 but he chose college. They selected infielder Eric Perlozzo, son of former coach and manager Sam Perlozzo, two spots earlier and took former shortstop and current NFL quarterback Russell Wilson in the 41st round.
The club didn’t hit on many picks that year. Catcher Matt Wieters was a no-brainer in the first round and they grabbed pitcher Jake Arrieta in the fifth.
The Orioles forfeited their second and third round picks after signing free agent relievers Danys Báez and Chad Bradford.
We aren’t talking about the glory days of Orioles baseball.
Kelly spent four seasons in the Korea Baseball Organization before signing a two-year, $5.5 million contract with the Diamondbacks. He was charged with seven runs and eight hits tonight in 2 1/3 innings, but also collected his first major league hit, a bases-loaded single in the second that plated two runs.
Bundy was laboring in his first start since going on the injured list. He walked leadoff hitter Jarrod Dyson in the first inning and stranded him on third base. He loaded the bases with one out in the second on a single and two walks, and Kelly punched a single to right that cut the lead to 3-2.
Ketel Marte struck out looking at Bundy’s 58th pitch to close out the second.
That was it for Arizona. Bundy retired nine in a row after Kelly’s single. Dyson reached on a bunt single in the fifth and was doubled off first base after Chris Davis caught Marte’s line drive and made a lunging tag, with the safe call overturned.
Davis wasn’t as impactful at the plate. He had four strikeouts for the second time this season.
The Orioles also turned a 4-6-3 double play on Alex Avila’s ground ball in the seventh with Richard Bleier pitching.
Santander’s home run followed a single by Smith, who came to the plate again in the third after singles by Trey Mancini, Chance Sisco and Núñez. Smith reached the seats in right field, Santander singled and Kelly was headed for the showers.
Defensive substitutions removed Núñez and Smith from the game in the eighth inning. Their work was done.
Update: Adam Jones went 0-for-4.
Hyde on whether concerned about Bundy early: “Yeah, concerned in that second inning. We were one pitch away from having Chance go out there and me getting somebody ready. And he got through it. So that was huge to get through that second inning. We scored some runs and he got a shutdown inning for us and got us through six.”
Hyde on Smith: “It’s just confidence, you know? Just confidence. Even that homestand he swung the bat good the last day. Even the two games before that I thought he had some good swings. Lined out to center once, hit a hard ground ball to the third baseman. Me and Don (Long) talked about it after that, he really stayed on the ball good and since then he’s squaring ball up. So taking really good at-bats.”
Hyde on whether vindicated over lineup decisions: “You go into the game saying best-case scenario and tonight was one of those nights where I thought we had our best defenders in the game with a lead late. We did a nice job scoring some runs and our starter goes six and we played some pretty good defense behind him, so thought there were a lot of good things tonight.”
Bundy on early struggles: “I think I was a little off mechanically the first two, maybe three innings and after the third I really started to kind of lock in there. Really got a lot of help from the defense today. Two double plays, that was huge.”