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Orioles' Renato Núñez sees defense overshadow three-hit day in a good way against Yankees

Orioles third baseman Renato Núñez broke out of his recent slump with a big afternoon in Saturday’s 10-3 loss to the New York Yankees, collecting three hits including a two-run single that temporarily gave his team an early lead.

Despite not having a hit in 11 at-bats entering Saturday, a stretch that dropped his average to .227, Núñez’s prowess at the plate was hardly in question since he joined the Orioles in Manny Machado’s roster spot after the All-Star break. He hit .289 with an .804 OPS at Triple-A Norfolk before he was promoted, but as the Orioles evaluate Núñez, 24, one of their youngest position players on the roster in the second half of the season, it’s the other half of his game that is getting attention.

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Orioles rookie Cedric Mullins took a homer away from Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

“Obviously, they pitch him in a lot,” manager Buck Showalter said. “When he stays out over the plate and hits the ball the other way like he did … He’s one of the few guys who got through the high fastball from J.A. Happ today. He didn’t see another the whole day. The catcher and the pitcher notice that.

“The pleasant thing about him today — well, what was good to see — was the great play he made glove-side. He’s been playing better at third base, and his arm, he had a good feed on a double play to put it in the square that you need to do. Those are the two things I take out of the game where he’s concerned.”

Núñez dove to his left to snag a ground ball from Gleyber Torres in the second inning that kicked off the only 1-2-3 inning for starter Jimmy Yacabonis, and also began a 5-4-3 double play to end the fifth inning for reliever Ryan Meisinger.

On Saturday afternoon against the New York Yankees, Jimmy Yacabonis yielded four runs in the third inning during his second time through the order, shifting the momentum of the game to send the Orioles to a 10-3 loss in Game 1 of a split doubleheader at Camden Yards.

Núñez had made four errors in 67 chances at third base entering Saturday, an improvement from the five he made in 28 plays before he was designated for assignment by the Texas Rangers.

Yacabonis said the expectation was always Núñez would hit when he was down at Norfolk, but he said the work at third base has impressed some.

“He swings the bat hard,” Yacabonis said. “He makes very solid contact a lot of the time, and his fielding has gotten way better, too. People thought that his fielding wasn’t going to be able to hold up, but his fielding here, in Norfolk, too, it was good.”

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