Getting back to playing the level of defense that made the Orioles successful will take time, especially with a young group of players new to the organization.

Errors have already been costly on this road trip. The Orioles committed four errors while being swept at the Kansas City Royals, including a three-error game Sunday. But despite the Orioles’ 2-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in Monday night’s series opener at Safeco Field, manager Buck Showalter could point to several defensive plays that kept the game close and gave hope that the team is heading in the right direction.

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On Jimmy Yacabonis’ first batter of the game with one out in the sixth, third baseman Renato Núñez made a nice backhanded play toward the line on a sharp in-between hop, making a quick and accurate throw to first to nab Nelson Cruz.

“I’ll tell you, Núñez made a really nice backhanded play that looked routine that I’m not sure he would have made when he first got here,” Showalter said. “That’s something that we’ve been hammering everybody about and preaching. It’s something we’ve got to get back to. We’ve got to get better defensively and regardless of where it takes us. You see the work that goes on every day in the infield and outfield and John [Russell] with the catchers. We’re going to try to make ourselves as good as we can be.”

Chris Davis named Orioles' Roberto Clemente Award nominee

Chris Davis is this year’s Orioles nominee for Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award, which honors the player who best represents the game through “extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions both on and off the field.”

Second baseman Jonathan Villar also made a pair of important defensive plays with diving stops. He snared Dee Gordon’s line drive to his left along the edge of the infield dirt for the third out of the seventh inning, but it was Villar’s diving stop up the middle behind the second base bag on a Ryon Healy ball with two outs in the eighth that saved a run for right-hander Miguel Castro. Villar quickly got to his feet and threw out Healy in time.

“Well, I can tell you one thing, the emphasis and the attention to it has always been there, but I think there’s adjustments sometimes when you get players,” Showalter said. “I’m not going to reflect on the way things are done somewhere else, but that’s who we’ve got to be. And it’s something that I and we stressed when we first started this and it’s something that until we get that part … there’s a lot of things we’ve got to figure out and that’s one of them.”

The Orioles had spent most of the season ranked last in defensive runs saved this season, but their minus-101 runs saved now actually ranks 29th of the 30 major league clubs. The Philadelphia Phillies rank last with minus-113 defensive runs saved, a sign that a winning team can be fielded without exemplary defense.

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