Dylan Bundy showed with another steady performance in the Orioles' 7-5 win over the Atlanta Braves on Saturday that the way to consistently turn in good starts is to keep changing it up.
Bundy's general plan rarely changes — he attacks the zone with his fastball in hopes of some bad contact, and if he gets to two strikes, he'll reach back for a big fastball or bury something spinning.
And when that didn't work early as he protected a four-run, first-inning lead, Bundy had plenty of other tactics to take.
"Most pitchers try to pitch as long as they can with the fastball early in the game before they have to break out some other things second and third time around the order, but he had to break it out in the first inning," manager Buck Showalter said. "I thought the game was won in a lot of ways that first inning when he got out of it 4-1. We put a four spot up there and then it looks like they were going to answer it. That was big."
Bundy's adaptability and aptitude for managing such situations is part of what has made him the Orioles’ most reliable pitcher this season. Starts like Saturday's, when tasked with six Braves hitters batting from the left side against him he turned to his changeup more often than in all but one of his previous 16 starts, are reminders of just how much the Orioles' 25-year-old right-hander has to work with when he's right.
In that sense, Bundy's adaptability is his strength. In addition to a typically dominant slider, Bundy used his changeup 16 times on 99 pitches for a pair of strikeouts plus three field outs on the pitch.
"They have a few lefties in that lineup, so the changeup came into play a little more,” Bundy said. “The slider really wasn’t there the first three or four innings, kind of spotty. Had to start throwing the changeup a little bit more, also the curveball.”
Bundy had two innings in the outing where the Braves had three runners reach but only scored once. He pitched around trouble well, using the Orioles' cushion to pitch to contact. He still ended up striking out eight in 6 1/3 innings with seven hits allowed and a pair of walks issued.
That part was familiar — he has 10 quality starts now to lead the Orioles. What wasn't was the ground ball through the right side that represented his first professional hit in the fifth inning, and the subsequent 15-plus minutes he spent on the base paths before Chris Davis doubled him and two other Orioles home. It might have been a shorter stint on the bases had he scored on Adam Jones’ single to left field, something Jones told him across the diamond as they stood at opposite bases during the inning.
“Felt good I saw [Freddie] Freeman kind of dive and miss it," Bundy said. "Then got excited and I saw [Ozzie] Albies miss it, too, so I was real excited. It felt good. It felt really weird being on the bases. It was my first time out there so I’ve got some learning to do, I heard.”