Houston — As the Orioles have struggled out of the gate this season, losing five of their first six games, one of the lone bright spots has been right-hander Dylan Bundy.
In his second start of the season Wednesday, Bundy delivered his second quality start, making him the only Orioles starting pitcher to go more than five innings. Bundy allowed two runs — one earned — through six innings in the 3-2 loss to the defending World Series champion Houston Astros.
“Dylan, that’s been fun to watch,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You never think anything is a given going into a season. But to see him get off to this type of start … . I thought coming out of the spring that he deserved to be our first starter. He really made you feel good about that confidence you had in him.”
Bundy leaned on his fastball — which had a little extra velocity compared with his start Opening Day -- especially early in the game — and drew 10 of his 16 swings-and-misses on his four-seamer. Bundy struck out eight by mixing in his slider later in the game with an occasional changeup and curve to keep a dangerous batting order off balance.
“Yeah, it was a battle,” said Bundy, who threw 13 of 25 first-pitch strikes. “Everybody knows who that team is so you just have to execute your pitches and you try to work ahead of them as much as you can and use their aggressiveness against them.”
In two outings this season, Bundy has allowed just one earned run over 13 innings — good for a 0.69 ERA. The rest of the starting rotation has a collective 8.50 ERA.
“I feel good about where I’m at right now and my body and the way I’m recovering, so you just want to take the ball when you’re told to and go out there and try to give your team a chance to win,” Bundy said.
Both of Bundy’s starts have ended in no-decisions. The Orioles won Opening Day, 3-2, in 11 innings.
Bundy escaped a second inning in which he ran into trouble quickly. He allowed a leadoff single to Josh Reddick, followed by a double by Marwin González to put two runners into scoring position, but Bundy retired the next three hitters he faced, limiting the damage to one run on Jake Marisnick’s one-out RBI groundout. Otherwise, Bundy struck out catcher Max Stassi looking on a 2-2 slider and first baseman J.D. Davis swinging to end the inning.
“Yeah, I think that is what you try to do always as a starting pitcher,” Bundy said. “Second and third, you know what could happen and it could snowball on you. Like you said. Limit the damage as much as possible and always try to keep your team in the mix.”
Josh Reddick opened the fourth with a single, then went to second on a wild pitch. But Bundy struck out González swinging on a changeup and Stassi swinging on a slider before inducing a popup from Marisnick.
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Five of Bundy’s eight strikeouts came with runners in scoring position, key outs that helped him limit damage.
“You know, them not swinging at pitches or swinging at pitches out of the zone, that usually accounts for strikeouts,” Bundy said. “It’s not like you look for them, but they do help, especially with guys in scoring position. But you have to work ahead of them to get there.”
He allowed an unearned run in the sixth that tied the game at 2 but navigated his way through a difficult inning to qualify for a quality start. José Altuve singled to center with one out and Reddick followed with a single on which Altuve went to third after a throwing error by right fielder Anthony Santander.
González dropped a squeeze bunt in front of the mound and Bundy had no play at home, so he threw to first for the out as the tying run scored. After walking Stassi, Bundy struck out Marisnick on four pitches, getting him to look at a slider on strike three.
“The baseball maturity comes from more is not always better,” Showalter said. “Dylan can still go get it when he needs it, and you see it come out when he needs it. But he’s got multiple ways to get you out and that is why. … He’s got three or four pitches and at some time today they were all available to him. He really pitches to weaknesses well. You go through a scouting report and you know he’s going to retain it and attack it as such.”