Dylan Bundy’s magnificent one-hit shutout in the Orioles’ 4-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night at Camden Yards served as the latest example that the club has found a perfect battery pairing.
In five second-half starts with Welington Castillo behind the plate, Bundy has a 1.88 ERA. His strikeouts are also dramatically up — his 12-strikeout performance Tuesday marked his third double-digit strikeout game in his past four starts with Castillo — and his strikeout-to-walk ratio in those games is an eye-popping 7.00.
“Yeah, he and I have a great relationship,” Castillo said. “We understand [each other] really well, the feel. He doesn't have the time in the big leagues, but he has a great idea about what he needs to do to the hitters out there. He's really smart, and he has an idea about how to get a hitter out.”
Over the course of the season, Bundy has a 3.77 ERA in 14 games with Castillo behind the plate, compared with a 5.03 ERA in eight games with Caleb Joseph catching him. Numbers for the Orioles’ other starting pitchers greatly favor Joseph — except for recent addition Jeremy Hellickson, whose five starts with the Orioles make too small a sample size to include.
Bundy’s ERA with Castillo is the second best of any Orioles starter with a specific catcher. The only better one is the 2.84 ERA right-hander Kevin Gausman has with Joseph in 14 starts.
On Tuesday, Bundy and Castillo navigated through a dangerous batting order — Kyle Seager’s fourth-inning bunt single was Seattle’s only hit on the night — by leaning mostly on his fastball and slider, the latter of which induced 10 of his 27 swinging strikes.
"It means a lot, mainly just to go out there,” Bundy said about taking the mound for the ninth inning to get the complete game. “But me and [Castillo] had a great game plan again, behind the plate, and then, of course, the defense was outstanding."
Castillo and Joseph have almost split starts evenly in the second half, a trend that was noticeable once Joseph’s bat heated up in June.
And while manager Buck Showalter scoffs at the idea of pitchers having their own catchers — he downplayed it earlier in the season when left-hander Wade Miley and Joseph had success working together — there shouldn’t be anything wrong with finding an effective pairing and taking advantage of it.
When the Orioles signed Castillo in the offseason, it was to serve as a stopgap for top prospect Chance Sisco, but given Bundy’s importance to the future of the organization, the success of Bundy and Castillo alone should be enough to consider finding a way to retain Castillo beyond this season.
It might be difficult to do, especially with Castillo on pace for a better offensive season than last year. His solo homer Tuesday gave him 15 long balls this season, surpassing last year’s total, and his OPS of .808 this season is higher than last year’s .799. And after making $6 million this year, Castillo has a player option for $7 million for next season, so he could choose to test the free-agent market at the season’s end, though he’s expressed how much he likes playing for the Orioles and with a contender.