Orioles manager Buck Showalter talks about Dylan Bundy and Zach Britton after 9-7 Sunday victory over the Astros. (Ken Lam/Baltimore Sun video)
Right-hander Dylan Bundy has been the most consistent pitcher in the Orioles rotation this season, but he has also been vulnerable to some of the same problems that have hampered his less-successful fellow starters.
His performance in Sunday's 9-7 win over the Houston Astros was a good example.
On a sizzling afternoon that would eventually feature a two-run game-winning rally in the eighth inning and Zach Britton's American League-record 55th consecutive successful save opportunity, Bundy was handed a pair of three-run leads over the course of his 5 1/3 innings of work, and each time his quest for the elusive shutdown inning was undone by a game-tying three-run homer.
Diminutive second baseman José Altuve delivered the first one in the third inning after the Orioles had taken advantage of the early wildness of Astros starter Lance McCullers to score three times in the second. Norichika Aoki, who isn't exactly Aaron Judge himself, dropped the second three-run homer on the flag court in the sixth to tie the score at 6.
"They hand me a three-run lead the first time and I blow it,'' Bundy said, "and the second time they do it again and just hand me a win and I didn't command my pitches in the sixth inning and they got me."
Bundy ended up surrendering seven earned runs, even though he made only two unforgiving pitches. He would avoid his ninth loss when Mark Trumbo tied the game with his 17th home run in the bottom of the seventh, but raise his ERA to 4.53.
"It was another one like [Chris Tillman],'' manager Buck Showalter. "I thought he was very close to having a lot better line. He hung a curveball and [Aoki] flipped it around the pole where you don't have to hit it very far. He was real close to having a real good outing. I know what it'll look like. I know Dylan was disappointed. He and [catcher] Caleb [Joseph] were really frustrated after that inning. They thought they should have gotten through it."
Adam Jones kept the Orioles offense moving with four hits, which matched a career high he has achieved 20 times. The O's also got multihit performances from Trey Mancini, who had a pair of run-scoring hits, and Jonathan Schoop, who had three singles to raise his team-leading batting average to .307.
The Orioles finally got over on the Astros with two runs off reliever Luke Gregerson in the bottom of the eighth inning. The rally start with a one-out double by shortstop Rubén Tejada, who moved up on Jones' fourth hit and scored on a long sacrifice fly by Manny Machado. Schoop provided the insurance run with a looping single to left-center field.
Britton did the rest, striking out two in a scoreless ninth to record his sixth save of the season, and first since April 14, in his first save opportunity since returning from the disabled list. His 55th consecutive successfully converted save opportunity – dating to September 2015 – broke the AL record set in 1998-1999 by then-Boston Red Sox closer Tom Gordon.
Altuve hit the first three-run home run that erased a three-run Orioles lead in the third inning and didn't stop there. He doubled in the fifth inning and singled in the sixth to set up the go-ahead run after Aoki hit a three-run homer to erase the other three-run Orioles lead. Altuve came into the game leading the major leagues with a .352 batting average and raised it to .358 with a career-high four hits.
Mancini's sweet music
Mancini just refuses to stop hitting. He singled home a run in the third inning to temporarily reclaim the lead and doubled home a run in the fifth inning to give the Orioles their second short-lived three-run lead of the game. He raised his average to .304.
Jones managed just one hit in 15 at-bats in the first four games of the nonmathematical second half of the season, but he pulled out of that minislump in a fury. Over the final five games of the homestand, he went 10-for-24 with three homers and nine RBIs.