The Orioles third baseman broke open a tie game Monday night with his suddenly sizzling bat, hitting his fifth career grand slam in the seventh inning to send the Orioles to a 6-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels in the first game of the club’s 10-day, 10-game road trip through Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle.
With the win, the Orioles (56-56) reached the .500 mark for the first time since June 29 and are just 1½ games out of the second American League wild-card spot.
“When was the last time a .500 team was in the playoffs?” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You just know that you’re going to have to be over it, and you’re going to have to play better on the road, so those are two good things that happened tonight. …Our guys in that clubhouse are trying to figure out a way to catch [AL East-leading] Boston.”
The Orioles — who were seven games under .500 three games after the All-Star break — have won eight of their past 10 and are 14-7 since July 17.
“Not really worried about being at .500 or below it, just as long as we win games, then we’ll get to where we need to be,” Machado said. “Keep playing as a team. We’ve got a nice little two months ahead of us where we’ll have to stick together as a team and do all the little things to make us a separator.”
Machado hit his 21st homer of the season, lining a 1-0 slider from Angels starter JC Ramírez over the two-tier bullpens in left field of Angel Stadium for his second homer in as many games and his third homer in his past four games.
“I was just trying to get something over the plate,” Machado said. “He was running the ball in and using that slider the whole game. He was pitching a hell of a game. Just had a couple mistakes and we were able to take advantage of it. Played overall a great game. That was a great inning, started off with [Seth Smith] getting a base hit and getting guys over. It was a team win today.”
Machado has nine RBIs in his past two games and 12 RBIs over his past five, equaling his total for the entire month of May.
The Orioles loaded the bases for Machado after back-to-back one-out singles by Smith and Castillo followed by Adam Jones getting hit by a pitch.
The Orioles had taken a 2-1 lead into the middle innings of their series opener by manufacturing runs.
Right fielder Joey Rickard’s RBI bloop-single followed by a sacrifice fly by Jones scored two runs in the fifth inning off Ramírez.
Tim Beckham started the inning with a leadoff single, then moved to second on an errant pickoff throw. Smith drew a six-pitch walk, and Castillo’s flyout to right was deep enough to move both runners into scoring position.
Rickard, who set a career high with four hits Sunday, then looped a ball into shallow center that shortstop Andrelton Simmons couldn’t come up with, enabling Beckham to score easily from third. Jones then flied out to deep center to score Smith.
Bundy records career-high 10 strikeouts: Bundy held the Angels to two runs over seven innings for his third quality start in four outings since the All-Star break.
The Orioles laid out a plan to give Bundy extra rest between starts in the second half of the season, and Monday’s performance came on one extra day of rest.
“He got the fastball where he needed to get it,” Showalter said. “He had an extra day of rest, and I thought he might carry a little more fastball. He threw 100 pitches, but it wasn’t one of those stressful outings even though that’s easy for us to say. That’s a good lineup.”
Bundy allowed just five hits — with Trout coming up with the only two extra-base hits off him — and had a career-high 10 strikeouts while walking none.
“When Dylan is out there and throwing strikes, pounding the zone, getting us in the dugout, he was pitching a hell of a game,” Machado said. “The only reason why we were able to do that is because he gave us the opportunity to just be in the game. When one of our starters can do that, it’s going to be a huge thing. We’re not going to win this offensively or defensively. Everyone’s going to have to come together like we have lately and keep it going the next two months and see what happens.”
The 24-year-old's maturation has been highlighted by mixing his pitches in favor of high strikeout totals, but on Monday night he had his best strikeout effort of his young career against a free-swinging Angels lineup. Five of Bundy’s last nine outs came by strikeout.
“I think just showing a slider early and also sticking with it,” Bundy said. “That was kind of the game plan. We knew coming into the game with Welly that we were going to throw quite a bit of sliders to these guys, just because their numbers were a little better on the curveball. So, like I said, we had a good game plan with [Castillo] and defense really played great. Manny really got me out of that seventh inning there.”
Bundy was especially effective throwing his slider down in the zone, getting eight swinging strikes with the pitch. Bundy had six strikeouts with his slider, five of them swinging.
“I mean, you never know,” Bundy said of the slider’s effectiveness. “These guys haven’t seen me this year. Last time they saw me was last year and I think that was in relief. So they just didn’t have a whole lot of info on me I don’t think and I wasn’t throwing the slider last year.”
Bundy received help from his defense to get through the seventh as Machado made a nice stop on C.J. Cron’s sharp grounder to third, starting a 5-4-3 inning-ending double play.
“You see it all the time,” Bundy said. “Some guy makes a great defensive play and comes up to bat next and has a good at-bat or the opposite. Tonight was the opposite. Manny hits that great grand slam and then makes an awesome defensive play for me.”
Since the All-Star break, Bundy has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his four starts, with each of those performances coming on extended rest.
Trout reaches 1,000-hit mark on 26th birthday: Bundy retired nine straight batters before being a part of history.
Bundy was finding his groove until Trout opened the bottom of the fourth inning with a double down the left-field line for his 1,000th career hit.
With that hit, Trout — who celebrated his 26th birthday Monday — became the 10th player in American League history to amass 1,000 hits before his age-26 season, joining a club that includes Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Alex Rodriguez, Robin Yount, Jimmie Foxx, Buddy Lewis, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr. and Stuffy McInnis.
Two batters later, Trout scored the first run of the night on Kole Calhoun’s sacrifice fly to center.
“That is pretty quick to 1,000 and then he went ahead and got another one,” Bundy said, referring to Trout’s sixth-inning solo homer. “Yeah, he’s a tough hitter. You’ve just got to execute your pitches and you can’t give in.”