In a season when even the best-laid plans for Orioles manager Brandon Hyde are liable to let him down, the lineup card for Tuesday's 7-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks might go right on the office wall as reminder that even with this team, things can work out nicely.
Faced with leaving hot-hitting slugger Renato Núñez on the bench in favor of defense or giving him his first start of the season at third base, Hyde played him at third and batted him fifth. Núñez rewarded the move with a solo home run to open the second inning.
Without any other options on the roster, Hyde stuck Anthony Santander in center field yet again, and Santander’s two-run home run proved to be the difference.
And even though Dwight Smith Jr. slumped through all of June and most of July, he was in there against right-hander Merrill Kelly and homered for the first time since June 4 as part of a two-hit night. His three-run home run in the third inning made it 7-2 and allowed the Orioles (32-68) to coast Tuesday at Chase Field. It was their 10th win in their last 20 games.
“You go into the game saying, ‘Best-case scenario,’ and tonight was one of those nights,” Hyde said.
"We did a nice job scoring some runs and our starter goes six and we played some pretty good defense behind him, so thought there were a lot of good things tonight.”
Núñez, Santander and Smith combined for six of the Orioles’ nine hits in the 4-5-6 spots in the lineup, and provided more than enough offense for a returning Dylan Bundy.
Fresh off the injured list after knee tendinitis, Bundy had a pair of long innings early and allowed two runs on a single to Kelly in the second inning. He rebounded to get through six innings on 94 pitches and improve to 5-11, lowering his ERA to 5.14 with one start remaining before the July 31 trade deadline.
“We were one pitch away from having Chance [Sisco] go out there and me getting somebody ready, and he got through it,” Hyde said. "That was huge to get through that second inning. We scored some runs and he got a shutdown inning for us and got us through six.”
“I think I was a little off, mechanically, the first two, maybe three innings,” Bundy said. “After that third, it really started to kind of lock in there. I got a lot of help from the defense today. Two double plays, that was huge.”
Left-hander Richard Bleier took over with a scoreless seventh, and right-hander Shawn Armstrong struck out two in recording the final six outs.
Smith smiling again
Smith said he started feeling his swing coming back in the Boston series, as he snapped an 0-for-36 streak in Saturday’s blowout loss.
He has four hits in eight at-bats since, including two Tuesday.
“It’s just confidence, you know?” Hyde said. “Just confidence.”
“I just kept working hard," Smith said. "It’s just baseball. I was coming back from injury, so I was just getting timing back, and me struggling mentally and physically. It was a lot, but I had good teammates and good supporting family back home. They had me keep staying positive, and things would turn around.”
Old friend updates
Former Orioles Adam Jones beat up his old club with three hits in Monday’s 6-3 win, but went 0-for-4 as Arizona managed just five hits.
Another former Oriole, however, set a career-high in strikeouts as left-hander T.J. McFarland punched out six Orioles in 2 2/3 innings.
Not a chance
For a team that’s as aggressive on the bases as the Diamondbacks, it seemed the stolen base attempt for leadoff man Jarrod Dyson after his first-inning walk would be the first of many with Sisco behind the plate.