The long reliever's job is to keep a game within reach, and in Vidal Nuno's previous five appearances this season, he didn't have much of an opportunity to do that as he entered games either with the Orioles winning big or trailing by a bunch.
So entering Monday night's eventual 6-3 Orioles win over the Tampa Bay Rays in the fourth inning with the Orioles down by two runs gave Nuno his first real chance to put out a fire.
Nuno met the challenge, stranding the bases loaded in relief of Ubaldo Jimenez by striking out Tampa Bay's top-of-the order hitters, Corey Dickerson and Kevin Kiermaier, on his way to 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief.
"Just coming in and do my job," Nuno said. "Throw strikes and don't get overexcited. I just kept with the game plan and just keep pounding the zone. That's what I've been doing the last couple of outings and it's getting better each time."
Nuno definitely gave a chaotic game some calm, and set the stage for the Orioles' power-driven comeback on the backs of three homers in a five-batter span in the sixth and seventh innings.
"Today, Nuno came in and gave us 2 2/3 innings of great pitching," said center fielder Adam Jones, whose two-run homer in the seventh gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead. "He came in in a tough spot and got two strikeouts in tough spots. Went out the next innings and just kept grinding, grinding, grinding, and used his defense."
In the fourth, Nuno came back from behind in the count against Dickerson and Kiermaier by getting called third strikes to end the innings.
"Just a mixture," Nuno said. "Cutter has been my [go-to], but lately the fastball. The fastballs were the key to get those strikeouts."
After escaping the fourth, Nuno gave the Orioles added length by keeping the ball on the ground, inducing four groundouts and ending his outing with another strikeout of Kiermaier to end the sixth.
"Nuno did an excellent job," Jimenez said. "He was the one who saved that game for us."
Nuno had his second straight scoreless multiple-inning outing, and has pitched well despite an unpredictable workload. He pitched just 1 1/3 innings in the season's first 10 games, then pitched in consecutive games Sunday and Monday.
"It's not hard," Nuno said. "I've been doing it for a couple of years now. So, it's just the mental part is just being ready every day and having my body ready every day. When the phone rings and it's for me, I've got to do my job. And that is what I've been doing."