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With win, O's hope tough stretch behind them

May 27, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Hoping the toughest stretch of their season to date coincided with their roughest patch of schedule, the Orioles returned home for Memorial Day to embark on a much different stretch. After three weeks spent exclusively playing contending teams, four of the next five series for the Orioles come

BALTIMORE -- Hoping the toughest stretch of their season to date coincided with their roughest patch of schedule, the Orioles returned home for Memorial Day to embark on a much different stretch. After three weeks spent exclusively playing contending teams, four of the next five series for the Orioles come against teams with .500 records or below.

That qualifies as a reprieve for a rebuilding club that’s spent good chunks of the past month suffering emotional losses at the hands of some of the Majors’ top squads. They opened it by notching a 5-3 win over the Tigers on Monday at Camden Yards, marking a positive start to what will be, in all likelihood, the softest run of schedule they’ll see this side of the All-Star break.

Box score

“Today was a really great team win, we all went out there and played 100 percent,” said Hanser Alberto, whose two-hit day raised his season average to .302. “We’ve been through tough moments, but we have to stay together, all the way, every single day, and hopefully things start to change.”

Monday’s victory came largely courtesy of Baltimore's reconfigured relief corps, which limited to Detroit to one run over five innings in support of Gabriel Ynoa, who logged four frames in his first start since 2017. The headliner was Dan Straily, who delivered a career-high four-plus innings of one-run ball during his first appearance since losing his rotation spot.

Renato Núñez yanked his fifth homer in six games and Jonathan Villar added a 456-foot solo shot, the second-longest of the Orioles' season and his farthest since Statcast began tracking in 2015.

“It’s just the mentality of enough’s enough,” said Straily, whose move to the bullpen came on the heels of an eight-start stretch during which he pitched to an 8.10 ERA. “I’ve had five days to sit in the bullpen and think; do some self-evaluation. It’s been a frustrating month. After I gave up the first run, it just kind of clicked. Enough is enough.”

Straily struck out four and retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced to put Baltimore in a position to capture a series victory for the first time in a month by the time Shawn Armstrong notched his first save in place of the struggling Mychal Givens. The right-hander worked around a leadoff single issued by Straily and a walk to open his outing to strand the tying run at second base.

O's to roll back struggling closer Givens

“I just told the guys, its OK to win [this way] once in a while, too,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It's OK to be up a few and add on, then hold on. We tend to make every score tight and games close. We definitely benefited from a couple of their mistakes today. Teams have benefited from ours, so it was nice to be on the other end of it.”

Whether or not that becomes a trend, only time will tell. But with two more games remaining against Detroit and upcoming series against the Giants, Rangers and Blue Jays, the opportunity for the Orioles to build on days like Monday is plain to see.

Here are a few more observations from before, during and after their cleanest win in some time.

Nunez locked in again

Think Nunez is streaky? After hitting two home runs over his first 19 games, Nunez collected four across a five-game stretch in late April. He then totaled one during his next 20 contests, hitting .111 with a walk in that stretch. He’s now gone deep six times in his last eight games, most recently a two-run, first-inning shot off the left-field foul pole.

Nunez was also the recipient of a run-scoring, three-base throwing error by Ronny Rodriguez in the third, and came around to score on Pedro Severino’s go-ahead sacrifice fly off losing pitcher Daniel Norris.

“It has to be the information and preparation I’ve been doing before the games, sitting in the video room and having a plan, and sticking to that plan when the game comes,” Nunez said. “That’s how baseball is. Sometimes you get hot, sometimes you’re not hitting. You always have to keep it up and keep working.”

It adds up to a nearly 40-home run pace for the 25-year-old, whose previous career high of eight came last season.

“Just a short time ago, he was in a little bit of a rut, and he’s bounced back great,” Hyde said. “Something kind of clicks and you start seeing the ball a little longer, and find it. Nuney is swinging the bat great for us right now.”

Change is in the air

Hyde lauded Straily’s efforts in part because the Orioles were again short in the bullpen despite the club carrying nine relievers at the expense of a two-man bench. That changed when they optioned Evan Phillips late Monday afternoon, sending the right-hander to Triple-A Norfolk for the third time this month.

Unlike the other instances, the Orioles are likely to replace Phillips with a position player, the most obvious candidate being DJ Stewart, Baltimore's No.15 prospect per MLB Pipeline. Stewart has been raking to the tune of a .447 average with five homers in May, but was blocked as recently as this weekend before Chris Davis landed on the injured list with a sore hip.

Davis’ absence allowed Hyde to slot Trey Mancini back in his natural position of first base on Monday, where he figures to get the bulk of the reps going forward. That leaves Dwight Smith Jr., Keon Broxton and Stevie Wilkerson -- who started in right field on Monday -- as the only outfielders in the fold after Joey Rickard was optioned last week to clear roster space for Broxton.

Ramirez traded to Pirates

Monday also marked the end of Yefry Ramírez’s tenure in Baltimore, as the club traded the right-hander to the Pirates for a player to be named or cash. Designated for assignment last week, Ramirez went 1-10 with a 6.07 ERA in 21 appearances over the past two seasons for the Orioles. He pitched to a 6.97 ERA in four games this season, including one start.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.