The Orioles’ Renato Núñez can smile more easily these days. His bat has heated up again after an extended slump that certainly tested him in several ways.
On April 24, Núñez was batting .301 with an OPS of .824. But on May 19, he was batting .211/.632. That was more than just a slump for a series or two.
But over 22 games since May 20, Núñez has hit .312 with five doubles, nine homers and 18 RBIs. He has 16 homers for the season, which is tied for 10th in the American League. He went through the long drought at bat and emerged finally hitting on the other side of it.
“It was a tough time out there,” he said this afternoon in the Orioles clubhouse. “But now I’m feeling great. Been working hard a lot. But that is baseball and you have to keep the faith in yourself and things will get better for you.
“I’ve got to say self-confidence was the most important thing. When you go 0-for-4 and then go 0-for-4 again, you start to feel a bit not like yourself. You try to feel good about yourself and go to the plate and feel like you will hit a line drive. Just compete.”
And then Núñez got a home run roll. He hit five in a six-game span and eight in a span of 12 games. And now nine over his past 22 games.
“It is great to be on a roll like that” said Núñez. “It is just about swinging well and hitting the ball on the barrel. When I am on a streak hitting homers or hitting balls hard, I’m not really thinking about doing that. Just trying to get the barrel to the ball and if you hit it well it will carry.”
His nine homers since May 20 are the most in the AL in that span and his 14 extra-base hits in that time frame are third in the league.
Manager Brandon Hyde today gave Núñez props for working through an extended tough stretch.
“When he was going through the struggles, he was really pull conscious and trying to get the ball lifted pull side,” Hyde said. “And you could see that in his swings. He came out of it by really having a middle of the field approach and trying to think line drives through the middle. And then catching the breaking ball and catching fastballs in and out front with the right approach.
“Right now, he’s in a really good place the last couple of weeks. Swung the bat great. When Nunie stays in the middle of the field in his approach, because he sees so many breaking balls, he’s able to stay on the ball. That is what he’s doing as of late.”
And Núñez is the latest player to credit his teammates and a positive clubhouse vibe, even on a team is losing so much. The atmosphere is great even if the record isn’t.
“Every day is a new day in the big leagues. and it was a tough loss yesterday. but today we have to put it behind us and the fans will be here to support us,” said Núñez. “You have to give 100 percent for the fans and yourself. Everyone supports each other here, even staff off the field, and that is great for us.”