The Orioles were getting knocked all over Camden Yards on Friday night, and that unpleasant reality was reflected in some uninspired play over the course of their 16-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
When you give up 20 hits and make two errors and several other mistakes, it’s hard to find many bright spots, but designated hitter Renato Núñez still came to play.
He homered in the fourth inning and lined a run-scoring double into the gap in left-center field in the ninth, running up his team-leading totals with his 21st home run and his 50th and 51st RBIs. He’s tied for sixth the the American League in home runs.
When the game was over, he said it wasn’t hard to keep his mind on his job, because his role as everyday DH requires him to do only one thing.
“I think you’ve just got to keep doing your work, trying to stay focused,'' he said. "In my case, I’m just hitting, just trying to give 100% and trying to help the team win ... to do anything I can.”
It has been an interesting year for the 25-year-old native of Venezuela, who had played just 30 games at the major league level before stepping into a regular role with the Orioles midway through the 2018 season.
He played 59 games at third base after being claimed off waivers from the Texas Rangers and seemed destined to play there again until biceps soreness near the end of spring training pushed him into the DH slot and opened up third base for Rio Ruiz.
If getting into the right mindset to assume an unfamiliar role at the major league level figured to be a big challenge, Núñez embraced it and seems more than grateful for the opportunity.
“I’m just happy to be here right now,'' he said. "I’m happy with the results I’m getting. I appreciate the Orioles and the opportunity they’ve given me. I want to keep working and doing well.”
The Orioles entered Friday night’s game coming off an uplifting end to the nonmathematical first half of the season, at least in a relative sense. They had won five of their previous nine games, which was their most successful span of that length this year.
They didn’t pick up where they left off, but Núñez seemed confident the team will shake off the blowout loss and come back ready for Saturday’s rain-makeup split doubleheader.