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Santander, Nunez bright spots in loss to Boston

@JoeTrezz
July 21, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Amid one of the strongest heat waves to hit Baltimore in years, the ball is flying out of Oriole Park this weekend. And while their pitchers bore the brunt of Saturday’s 17-6 loss to the Red Sox, the favorable conditions also benefited a pair of young Orioles who

BALTIMORE -- Amid one of the strongest heat waves to hit Baltimore in years, the ball is flying out of Oriole Park this weekend. And while their pitchers bore the brunt of Saturday’s 17-6 loss to the Red Sox, the favorable conditions also benefited a pair of young Orioles who appear to be hitting their stride in the season’s second half.

First, consider Anthony Santander, who went 4-for-5 with a homer and a triple and finished a double shy of the cycle while making his latest audition in center field. Next, consider Renato Núñez, who golfed home run No. 22 to help the Orioles climb out of a five-run hole in the third. Both stand out as positives on a night Baltimore set a season high for runs allowed and was forced to hand the ball to utilityman Stevie Wilkerson for the second time in eight days.

“Dr. Poo Poo came in and pitched the last two. ... It helped us big time,” manager Brandon Hyde said, referencing the nickname Wilkerson imposed on himself after his first mound appearance. “Isn’t that what he calls himself?”

Box score

By recording six stress-free outs despite not throwing a pitch beyond 60 mph, Wilkerson helped ease a burden brought on by trying performances from Tom Eshelman and Jimmy Yacabonis, who combined were charged with 12 earned runs over the game’s first five innings.

A rookie, Eshelman allowed nine runs total over 3 2/3 innings, snakebit by home runs from Jackie Bradley Jr., Rafael Devers and Mookie Betts. Yacabonis was tagged for four runs in relief of Eshelman during Boston’s eight-run fourth, then three more in the fifth before exiting. He became the first Orioles reliever to surrender at least seven and record just one out since Rick Bauer on May 11, 2004.

“We had a guy in here that was a double shy of the cycle, and for that not to be the headline is kind of tough for me,” said Eshelman. “For me not to get our offense in the dugout quicker is frustrating on my end of things. I need to learn from what I’m doing, go forward and try to get better.”

That largely rendered the six runs Baltimore put up on winning pitcher Rick Porcello relatively moot, though the Orioles were sure to mention how they roughed up a former Cy Young winner for the second consecutive night.

“I was really happy with how we swung the bats,” Hyde said. “We just didn’t pitch very well tonight.”

Santander and Nunez were the headliners here, with Trey Mancini, Chris Davis and Richie Martin enjoying multi-hit nights as well. The first four-hit game of Santander’s career came in tandem with his second trip to Eutaw Street, courtesy of his 426-foot solo homer off Porcello in the fifth. Santander laced an opposite-field triple in the third and singled in the first and seventh before grounding out in the ninth off Colten Brewer to miss out on history.

The Orioles have just four cycles in their history, the last being Felix Pie’s from August 2008.

“By the end of the game I was just trying to put the ball in play,” Santander said. "Unfortunately, I didn’t get the cycle but that’s just part of the game.”

Santander will have to settle for a simple hot streak, and an opportunity seized. Playing every game since being recalled in early June, the 24-year-old outfielder is hitting .387 in eight games since the All-Star break, and .299 with an .840 OPS across 36 games overall. Those numbers outpace his career Minor League production and .259/.311/.415 line in 48 games at Triple-A Norfolk this year.

“The key is the work every day I am able to put in,” Santander said. “I’m very happy that the results are there.”

For Nunez, they’ve been showing for some time and could make him an under-the-radar trade candidate heading into this year’s July 31 Trade Deadline. The Orioles have made no indication they’re willing to part with Nunez, who, at age 25 and on a near 40-homer pace, has as much upside as any youngster in the fold. But there is little doubt, too, that he could help a contender, perhaps looking to add thump off the bench and willing to pay for it.

“I thought we took good at-bats the majority of the game,” Hyde said. “We had some guys with big nights.”

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