When Monday’s game against the New York Yankees began, Renato Núñez saw his batting average down to .211 and his OPS at .632. He had just three hits his last 47 at-bats and six in his previous 68.
But Núñez not only got two extra-base hits in that game, he drew two walks. This is a player who recently had a stretch of 18 games without drawing one walk. But Monday he hit a solo homer and added a double in three at-bats. It was his first multi-hit game since May 1.
Over the weekend, manager Brandon Hyde talked about Núñez swinging better and seemed to sense a breakout game was coming. Núñez went 0-for-4 in last night’s loss, but he feels he’s on right track, finally.
Núñez said hard work is paying off.
“The work we put in in the cage every day has been big,” Núñez said. “But this game is about adjustments. It’s a long season. So what is in my mind right now is to keep working, keep swinging and have the confidence that those hits and doubles and homers will come.”
Núñez added he was just as pleased with those walks as he was with the hits.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “But what we can really control is the strike zone and which swings we take. To take good pitches against good pitchers feels good, of course. That is something I’ve been working on.”
That work included sessions when Núñez would step into the indoor batting cage and set it to throw as many as 100 breaking balls to improve his ability to recognize sliders and curveballs.
“I’ve not only focused on fastballs but have been working in the cage a lot and hitting off the machines hitting breaking balls,” he said. “We set it up for the nastiest curveball you can see to prepare your eyes. I like to get in the cage to do that two or three times a week.
“When you get used to seeing those pitches a lot, it helps your eyes. You can set it to see 100 breaking balls. That repetition helps, and you get in the game and you react. You see a pitch out of the zone and take it for a ball.”
Núñez also said he appreciates that as his slump has continued his skipper keeps giving him chances to break out of it.
Last September Núñez batted .313 with an OPS of .891. In March and April 2019, he hit .316 with a .793 OPS.
“You want to let him try to come out of it,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said during the Cleveland series. “I know he swung the bat the last month or two months here last year when he got a chance. He swung really well for us the first month of this season. He just got in a little bit of a funk. But he’s putting a ton of work in and will continue to get an opportunity, and we’re looking for him to come out it.”
This Yankees series may have been the start of that. Núñez stressed the importance of remaining confident even as his batting average was dropping fast.
“If you are doing well or not, your confidence has to be there,” he said. “We play against the best in the world in the majors. If you don’t have that confidence, they will beat you. You always have to have that confidence to show what you can do.”
A few notes on the Orioles and Yankees: New York built a 9-0 lead last night and beat the Orioles 11-4 to improve to 30-17 while the Orioles fell to 15-33. Baltimore has lost four in a row, seven of eight, 11 of 13 and 17 of 22 games. The Orioles have allowed 10 or more runs the last three games and nine times during this year.
Right-hander David Hess allowed three homers and a career-worst nine runs last night. He leads the majors with 17 homers allowed. Over his past six games, he is 0-4 with a 9.23 ERA and has yielded 13 homers in 26 1/3 innings.
The Orioles have now allowed 100 homers in 48 games. Three teams have combined to hit 66 of those homers off Baltimore pitchers. The Yankees have hit 29 in 10 games, the Twins have hit 23 in six games and the Athletics have hit 14 in four games.
New York’s Clint Frazier hit two homers and drove in five runs Tuesday night. His five RBIs marked a career high. It was Frazier’s second multi-homer game of the year. The other took place April 7, also against the Orioles.
The Yankees’ Gleyber Torres went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and two walks. In 10 games this year against the Orioles he is batting .474 (18-for-38) with eight homers and 11 RBIs. Gary Sánchez hit a three-run homer in the win. This year against the Orioles, Sánchez is batting .308 (12-for-39) with eight homers and 16 RBIs.
Trey Mancini went 2-for-3 with a walk, producing his 15th multi-hit game to tie Dwight Smith Jr. for the team lead. He singled in the first inning and is batting .435 (17-for-39) in the opening inning for the season.
The Yankees are 5-0 this year in Baltimore, hitting 20 homers and outscoring the Orioles 50-22 with games when they have scored 10, 11 and 15 runs.