The Orioles spent the entire second half — and in some ways the entire season — attempting to preserve right-hander Dylan Bundy's long-term health while maintaining his effectiveness throughout his first season as a full-time starting pitcher.
And while Bundy will approach the season's final days within the 180-inning threshold the team placed on him — and he's pitched well with six or more days of rest — his outings with five days of rest have been a mixed bag.
In his past two starts on five days' rest, Bundy — who earlier in the season pitched well with an extra day off — has allowed 11 earned runs over 8 1/3 innings. He's pitched much better on more rest.
Bundy's innings count reached 169 2/3 after Monday night's start, but manager Buck Showalter said the club isn't considering shutting him down for the season yet with 11 games remaining. Bundy totaled 109 2/3 innings last season.
"No, I don't think we're at that point yet," Showalter said. "Stuff's fine, he feels great between starts, he's getting extra days' rest. As long as we think it's beneficial for him and the club, then we'll continue down that path. But we're not at that point yet."
His past two starts with one day of extra rest have been especially concerning because he started off strongly only to unravel quickly in the middle innings.
That was the case Monday in the Orioles' 10-8, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox, in which Bundy failed to get through five innings for the second time in his past three starts, both coming on five days' rest.
"I think he had good results early on, he'd probably tell you," Showalter said of Monday's outing. "I'm not sure about. … I thought his stuff was OK. Command was an issue for him. I thought the command was a little bit of an issue for him, especially as the game wore on. But stuff-wise, for September I thought it was OK. I think the command deserted him a little bit there."
IOn Aug. 29, Bundy pitched his best game of the season on five days' rest, a one-hit, 12-strikeout shutout of the Seattle Mariners.
But in his next start on five days' rest, Bundy allowed five runs over four innings — including two homers — against the New York Yankees.
In that outing, Bundy didn't give up a hit in his first three innings, yielding a pair of base runners on walks. But to open the fourth, he allowed five of the first six hitters he faced in the inning to reach base, including a two-run homer by Didi Gregorius, the second batter of the inning, and an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury four batters later after a pair of walks.
Bundy wouldn't get an out in the fifth, being removed after allowed a two-run homer to Starlin Castro on the second batter of the inning.
In his next start, Bundy pitched six innings of one-run ball, but that came with seven days' rest.
On Monday, he went back to working on five days' rest, and again a strong start went downhill fast. Bundy retired nine of the first 10 batters he faced through three innings. He allowed Mookie Betts' run-scoring single in the fourth after pinch-hitter Brock Holt's leadoff double.
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It all came apart in the fifth, as Bundy was pulled from the game when five of the first six batters he faced reached, including run-scoring hits from Jackie Bradley Jr. and Holt, cutting Boston deficit to 6-3.
"I think I got kind of lucky those first three innings," Bundy said. "They were hitting some balls right to people and the defense was playing awesome all night. So I think it was a little bit of a false reading right there. I was leaving pitches over the middle of the plate and right to guys and then in that fifth inning, they weren't hitting them to those guys anymore. You've just got to limit the damage there and I didn't."
Mychal Givens inherited a bases-loaded situation and allowed a bases-clearing three-run double to Betts, leaving Bundy charged with six runs, one short of his career high.
After Monday's outing, Bundy's ERA in nine starts on five days' rest is 4.69, which is actually higher than his ERA in 13 starts on regular rest (4.68). He has a 2.68 ERA in six starts with six or more days' rest.
Asked whether fatigue could be setting him for him, Bundy said: "I mean, it could, yeah. But it doesn't matter. It's September. Everybody is tired right now. So, you've just got to battle through it and work on it in my next bullpen [session] and get ready for the next one."