TORONTO — Dylan Bundy smacked his right hand against the glove on his left in celebration. It was not the last pitch of what might be his last start of 2019, but it was the Orioles right-hander’s most important.
Staring at the possibility of another troublesome sixth inning in a year full of them, Bundy got Toronto Blue Jays phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to ground out with two on and end a one-run frame, keeping the large lead the Orioles’ batters supplied him intact. Bundy remains a candidate to start the Orioles’ season finale Sunday at Fenway Park, but Tuesday’s seven-inning outing in Baltimore’s 11-4 victory could certainly be an exclamation point on a season in which Bundy made at least 30 starts for the second straight season, leading the Orioles in that category.
“He’s been our workhorse all year, from start to finish,” said Trey Mancini, who went 5-for-5. “He’s such a competitor. There’s not much more you can stay about him. He just goes out there and fights every game whether he has his stuff or not. He gives us everything he has. He’s definitely our bulldog on the mound out there.”
Bundy’s seven innings of two-run ball Tuesday lowered his season ERA to 4.79, and he has a 3.99 mark since the start of August. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde believes those numbers don’t fully tell the story of Bundy’s season.
After another sixth-inning run scored against him Tuesday, Bundy’s ERA in the frame is 9.42. Before the game, Hyde opined that Bundy’s woes in the sixth are the result of the decisions he’s often faced in that inning of either extending Bundy or asking for extra outs from a bullpen that has struggled throughout the year. On the season, 42.8% of the base runners Bundy has left behind for the bullpen have scored; entering Tuesday, the major league average was 32.2%, with the Orioles’ rate of allowing 38.9% of inherited runners to score leading the American League.
“I feel like he had some bad luck," Hyde said before the game. “One thing we’ve just been horrible at this year is coming in and giving up runs, inherited runs, and I feel like any time I took him out in that sixth, seventh range, we would give up his runs, so his line would always look worse than he threw.”
Bundy left nothing to chance Tuesday. He retired eight straight Blue Jays (64-94) to open the game before Derek Fisher’s solo shot in the third, the 300th home run the Orioles (52-106) have allowed, with an RBI single by former Oriole Breyvic Valera in the sixth being the only other blemish. He completed seven innings on 86 pitches and was due to return for the eighth if not for a long wait after the Orioles tacked on three more runs in the top half. But Hyde was thankful for what he got after the Orioles used 10 pitchers in a 15-inning loss Monday.
“For Dylan to give us seven, even strong enough to go deeper [was] huge for us, huge for our bullpen," Hyde said.
But asked to describe the best part of his outing, Bundy chuckled and said, “The offense.”
Mancini was named American League Player of the Week on Monday. He continued to put up a case for the monthly honor Tuesday.
Mancini contributed a career-high five hits to the Orioles’ second straight double-digit output, bringing his September batting line to .389/.441/.644. His 1.086 OPS since Sept. 1 is the seventh best in Orioles history, sandwiched between Eddie Murray in 1981 and Brooks Robinson in 1964.
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“He’s hitting the ball hard almost every at-bat,” Hyde said.
He doubled in the first inning, with Toronto left fielder Derek Fisher unable to hold onto the ball after crashing into the wall, before scoring along with Jonathan Villar when Renato Núñez did the same. After he hit another double in the third, Mancini singled in his next three at-bats and was left on-deck in the top of the ninth, denying him a chance at joining Cal Ripken Jr. as the only Orioles with six hits in a game.
During an 11-game hitting streak, Mancini is hitting .471.
New lineup pays off
With the Orioles due to face left-hander Anthony Kay, Hyde decided to go against his desire to give a day off to Hanser Alberto and Anthony Santander after Monday night’s 15-inning defeat. But when Toronto scratched Kay with back pain, Hyde rearranged his lineup to give those two a reprieve, as well as Richie Martin, and added Dwight Smith Jr., DJ Stewart and Rio Ruiz.
Each of three additions drove in at least one run, combining for seven RBIs total. Smith, Stewart and Austin Wynns homered, providing runs that proved beneficial after Toronto scored twice in the ninth.
Smith, a former Blue Jays first-round draft pick who the Orioles acquired in a trade during spring training, savored his three-hit, three-RBI performance.
“To have the game against Toronto, I try not to get too hyped about it, but it was a moment I’ll cherish, for sure," Smith said. "I love playing here.”