ANAHEIM -- Few precious hours after outlasting their 6-plus hour, 16-inning marathon with the Angels, several Orioles were awoken prematurely, by an unmistakable shrill. The fire alarm, set off accidentally around 10 a.m. local time, terrorized every guest on the 12th floor of the SoCal hotel the Orioles are calling
ANAHEIM -- Few precious hours after outlasting their 6-plus hour, 16-inning marathon with the Angels, several Orioles were awoken prematurely, by an unmistakable shrill. The fire alarm, set off accidentally around 10 a.m. local time, terrorized every guest on the 12th floor of the SoCal hotel the Orioles are calling home this weekend, but due to near-continuous baseball, have hardly frequented.
Some, like O’s skipper Brandon Hyde, were spared. But for others, the disturbance cut inconveniently into a well-deserved -- and needed -- night’s sleep they ever figure to get. Such is life for the 2019 Orioles, now nearly two-thirds through a season during which nothing has come easy. And yet, they’ve hardly made anything look quite as seamless as what came next: their clean, clinical 9-3 win over the Angels on Friday night.
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A half-day removed from going blow-for-blow with the Angels for 16 innings, the Orioles returned to Angel Stadium groggy eyed and promptly squashed any chance of an encore. They scored seven times over the first two innings off losing pitcher Nick Tropeano, then rode a second straight strong outing from Asher Wojciechowski, who saved Baltimore’s ultra-taxed bullpen by holding the Angels to two runs over seven strong innings.
“He’s been enormous for us,” Hyde said. “That was a bullpen saver on a day when we really, really needed it. ... He’s out there to beat people.”
Six days after taking a no-hitter into the seventh last weekend against the Red Sox, Wojciechowski limited the Angels to just three, only Matt Thaiss’ rainbow two-run homer in the fifth muddying his line. By then, however, the game was already largely decided, the Orioles propped up by a six-run second that included contributors from several players who could be traded before the July 31 deadline.
“I just took that start and just rolled with it,” said Wojciechowski, the righty now 2-3 with a 3.60 ERA since joining the Orioles earlier this month. “Just kind of building confidence and executing pitches.”
He did so Friday with plenty of support. With Jonathan Villar, Renato Núñez and Trey Mancini all playing part, each of the club’s potential position player trade chips had big nights within shouting distance of Wednesday’s deadline.
Villar reached four times and stole another base to pace Baltimore’s offense from the top, while Nunez broke the game open with a three-run homer, his third of the road trip and 25th on the season. Mancini added insurance in the ninth with his 24th dinger, and seventh in nine games. Though not a trade candidate, Anthony Santander singled twice, doubled and drove in three, to continue a torrid stretch for the young outfielder.
“I think you see some guys start to put together some really nice years,” Hyde said, mentioning Mancini, Villar, Nunez and Santander by name. “Guys coming into their own.”
For the latter two, both getting their first extended looks in the Majors, the progress has been plain to see. Santander is now hitting .301 with an .849 OPS through 42 games, far outpacing his numbers from the high Minors. Wrapped up in Nunez’s .841 OPS is a walk rate that’s more than doubled over the past two months, over which he’s driven the ball the other way with authority more consistently. He drove a splitter below the zone from Tropeano on Friday and deposited it 385 feet away to right-center field.
“I’ve been working a lot on that,” Nunez said.
It’s resulted in a breakout year that has Nunez garnering some under-the-radar trade chatter, though his combination of age and upside realistically make him a longshot to be dealt by next week. A career .248 hitter with nine home runs in 90 games entering this season, Nunez has more than tripled his previous career high in homers and is also slugging .518 through 98 games in 2019. That’s higher than Edwin Encarnacion, Gary Sanchez and other sluggers.
“That was my goal this whole year, I want to see not only our team, but individuals improve by the end of the year,” Hyde said. “Then that rolls into the next year, and all of a sudden you get more talented players and the guys who are here have improved. That’s the positive thing.”
Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.