Before Tuesday night’s game at Camden Yards, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde reiterated there will be more like Monday’s for this rebuilding team, as a competitive contest fizzled into a blowout defeat with a catcher on the pitcher’s mound. There’s hope, then, that this season will occasionally include nights like Tuesday’s.
The ball continued to fly out of Oriole Park on Tuesday night, but unlike the previous 11 games here, the home team provided the power, with the Orioles blasting four home runs in their 9-1 victory over the Chicago White Sox. They backed Andrew Cashner’s seven one-run innings with mostly spectacular defense; shortstop Richie Martin recorded the game’s second out with a diving stop, while right fielder Trey Mancini ended the first and third innings with leaping catches heading backwards. In the opposite corner, Dwight Smith Jr. jumped at the wall to deny Chicago’s Adam Engel of a two-run home run in the second.
“We played really well, all three phases,” Hyde said. “One of our better efforts of the year.”
For what Smith took from the White Sox, he gave more to the Orioles, hitting a three-run shot in the fifth inning off Chicago right-hander Ivan Nova. Smith, back in the lineup for the first time after exiting Sunday’s game with right quadriceps tightness, has five home runs in 2019 after entering the campaign with two in his career.
“I’m just having fun,” Smith said. “Just playing the game the way I’ve always played it as a kid, and I just take that mentality every day.”
He was not alone in displaying his power. Renato Núñez homered for the fourth time this homestand with his solo shot in the third, a ball that left his bat at 111 mph and went a projected 421 feet, per Statcast data. Three batters later, Chris Davis hit his first Camden Yards home run of 2019, sending an elevated fastball out to left-center field. Combined with a second-inning single that scored Joey Rickard with the aid of a wild throw from Engel in center that sailed into the Chicago dugout, Davis improved to 9-for-23 since ending his record hitless streak, though he was retired in his final two at-bats.
“It was probably pretty natural to press early,” Hyde said of Davis’ hitless start to the season. “A lot of stuff that he was having to answer to, maybe pressing to get off to a good start, then it doesn’t happen, and then having to answer about not getting a hit and all those things that were going on with him the first couple weeks. I think now you see a little bit more confident guy at the plate.
“CD’s feeling more confident. He’s feeling more comfortable. Kinda letting the game happen now instead of forcing the issue, and it’s great to see.”
The Orioles tagged Nova with nine runs when Rickard rocketed a fastball out to left field to score two more with his second home run of the year. Nova allowed 14 base runners, 11 via hits, in his four innings, and although the Orioles recorded no hits against Chicago’s relievers, their comfortable lead minimized such a qualm.
Tim Anderson’s RBI single in the sixth inning after a triple by Yoan Moncada led to the only White Sox run, but it did little to dull a night of needed reprieve for an Orioles team that went 1-10 in its first 11 home games — including an 0-4 start to this homestand — while getting outscored 102-50 in those contests.
“I just think that we’ve played a lot of inconsistent baseball,” Cashner said. “I think we’ve showed some flashes of being really good in some certain areas, and I just think we’ve been really inconsistent, so I think the biggest thing for us is trying to find a way to be more consistent. If we can be more consistent, I think we’ll be a pretty good ballclub.”
Many of those opposing runs have come via home runs, but the Orioles permitted none for the second time in three games after seeing at least one opponent hit one out in 21 of their first 22 games. They enter the final week of April with nine more home runs allowed than any other team in major league history has forfeited before May 1.
But they treated an announced crowd 8,953 to a comfortable victory, which have been rare for a team that is 5-15 since beginning the season 4-1, and treated themselves to a night in which a young bullpen wasn’t tasked with keeping a deficit narrow. Instead, Paul Fry continued his strong sophomore season with a clean eighth before Gabriel Ynoa finished off the victory in the ninth, with second baseman Jonathan Villar and third baseman Rio Ruiz delivering more stellar plays.
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The Orioles head into Wednesday’s finale looking for their first home series victory this season. It could be awhile before they enjoy another night like Tuesday’s, one in which development and success were perfectly in-sync, but it’s good to know they can happen on occasion.