Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy deserved a better fate Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park as he kept a potent Boston batting order at bay for five innings through a frigid combination of cold, wind and rain.
Bundy’s day unraveled quickly in the sixth, a costly fielding error leading to the Red Sox breaking open a tie game with two unearned runs and ending Bundy’s outing in the process.
Bundy fell one out short of his fourth quality start in as many outings this season, but he still put the Orioles into position to win. He hasn’t received much run support all season — the Orioles have averaged a minuscule 1.5 runs a game when he’s been in — but on Sunday it was his defense that failed him in a 3-1 loss.
“Dylan was outstanding,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Just remarkable for me to watch him plying his trade or whatever in those type of conditions. I can’t tell you how hard that is and that was impressive. I’m sure Dylan’s done a little duck hunting in his life. That’s kind of what that was like.”
The setback was the fifth in the past six games for the Orioles (5-11), who are 3-7 in the road. Take away last week’s trip to Yankee Stadium — where the Orioles won three of four against the Yankees — and the club is 0-6 away from Camden Yards, getting swept in its opening road series in Houston and losing the first three games of its four-game series here in Boston with Monday’s Patriots Day series finale postponed because of inclement weather.
The cold offered challenges for both hitters and pitchers, and even though the Orioles have played several games in cold weather this year, this was the most extreme most Orioles players had ever seen. They prepared with three or four layers of clothing under their jerseys, wearing balaclavas to protect their heads from the elements.
Bundy (0-2) turned in another solid start — two of the three runs he was charged with were unearned — and he continued to use his slider as a quality strikeouts pitch. Five of his six strikeouts on the day came off sliders. He held the Red Sox scoreless through his first four innings, allowing just two hits and walking two in that span.
“Dylan obviously threw the ball outstanding,” Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said. “Those are the games that are tough to lose, especially against a division rival. … Anytime you have a guy throwing the ball like that, you want to get him some runs and kind of take a little bit of pressure off of him, and he’s really risen to the occasion on every start he made this year. He’s thrown the ball well. He’s given us the chance to win, and that’s really all you can ask from our starters. So I’m extremely proud of him, and I know he’s going to continue to do that. Our job is to continue as an offense to go out there and pick him up and get him some runs.
His 1.40 ERA ranks seventh-best in the American League but Bundy is still looking for his first win off the season.
“Like I said, it ain’t about my wins,” Bundy said. “Like I said last time, it’s team wins. Right now, we’re not getting team wins either, so just go out there every five days and try and give my team the chance to win the best I can.”
After scoring the first run of the game in the first inning Sunday on Manny Machado’s RBI double off Red Sox ace Chris Sale, the Orioles had just one hit for the rest of the game: Craig Gentry’s sixth-inning single. Sale held the Orioles to two hits over five innings, striking out eighth and walking two.
“And they were extremely difficult [conditions], but they were difficult for both sides,” Davis said. “I think if you kind of look at their approach, the first few hitters in the top of their order, they were hacking, which was probably the best approach today. But they’re tough. Chris Sale is tough. He’s one of the best in the American League, one of the best in the big leagues. He’s tough when it’s 70-75 [degrees]. But you’ve got to grind through it, hang in there, wait for a pitch to hit and put a good swing on it.”
In being outscored 20-7 in three games at Fenway Park, they fell victim to two short starts in the first two games of the series. And Bundy had to face extreme weather on the mound — a 34-degree first-pitch temperature, 23-mph winds and a cold, spitting rain that made gripping the ball a challenge.
Boston shortstop Tzu-Wei Lin opened the fifth with a single, and leadoff hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. beat out a double-play ball on a grounder to Davis, then stole second. Andrew Benintendi then tripled into the right-field corner to tie the game at 1.
Bundy pitched primarily with his fastball, but his slider continued to be effective as his top swing-and-miss pitch. Of the 10 sliders he threw over his first four innings, eight were strikes and four were swinging strikes. He recorded three strikeouts on the pitch in the first four frames.
In the sixth inning, J.D. Martinez hit a grounder to third that Danny Valencia booted, allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base. That miscue came back to haunt Bundy and the Orioles, as Mitch Moreland’s double put runners at second and third.
Martinez scored on a wild pitch to break the tie. Christian Vazquez then hit a playable ball to the left of the mound that Valencia charged to make the play, but Davis couldn’t come up with the short-hop throw at first. The play was ruled an infield single, and two batters later Lin’s RBI double scored another run and chased Bundy from the game.
“We’re all playing in the same conditions,” Showalter said. “It’s tough, it’s real hard. You can’t feel your hands or the ball and it is what it is. I really don’t want to use the weather as an excuse and I know our guys don’t either, but it’s really tough to play in. But it was tough for them, too. … Weather is weather. We haven’t swung the bats well and they’re pitching well. You can talk about conditions, you can talk about the other pitcher, but we’ve got to swing the bats better. We know that. Everybody does.”
Davis said the weather did create a challenge gripping the ball.
“When you’re having to make sure that you have a grip on the ball before you throw, you’re just giving a guy that much more time to get down the line,” he said. “With the conditions the way they were, we knew we were going to have a challenge ahead of us. We couldn’t get a hit when we needed it, we couldn’t get a guy on base when we needed it, get some pressure on the other team. I felt like they got some timely hits. They swung the bats well. They got  hits. You’ve got to give credit where credit is due.”
The Orioles knew their first five series would be a test, facing four playoff teams over that season-opening stretch, and capping that off against a Boston team that is off to its best start in franchise history (13-2), and their trip to Fenway Park this weekend was especially challenging.
For the Orioles, the early-season problems are many. The offense has struggled. Sunday marked the fifth time in 15 games the Orioles scored one run or none. That’s also happened in three of the past six games. Though the starting rotation has shown signs of coming through — it arrived in Boston coming off three straight quality starts — it has been inconsistent as a whole, placing an extra load on a bullpen corps that’s needed to add reinforcements on a daily basis.
The defense stayed steady, until Saturday’s game in Boston — when shortstop Machado made two throwing errors and Valencia made a fielding error. The Orioles have made 11 errors in 16 games this season, and are 1-6 when committing at least one error.
The infield defense depth is being tested with second baseman Jonathan Schoop expected to be out for at lead two weeks with an oblique strain, forcing the Orioles to move third baseman Tim Beckham to second and play Valencia at third.