April 26, 2018 - The Orioles lose to the Rays, 9-5. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)
One of the only highlights of the Orioles' ugly season has been watching right-hander Dylan Bundy emerge into one of the American League's best pitchers, but even Bundy wasn't immune from the team's struggles Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays as he was roughed up for the first time this year in the Orioles' 9-5 loss at Camden Yards.
Bundy entered the night having allowed just five earned runs over his first 31 2/3 innings spanning five starts — his 1.42 ERA ranked fourth in the AL — but on Thursday he allowed eight runs in 4 2/3 innings.
He had allowed just one home run all season — his 0.28 homers per nine innings tied for the second-lowest mark in the AL — but allowed two homers in his first seven batters Thursday, including a mammoth two-run blast by first baseman C.J. Cron to straight-away center field that went an estimated 425 feet on Bundy's second batter of the night.
Given the exemplary way he's pitched this season, it was an uncharacteristic night for Bundy, who allowed eight runs and 11 hits on Thursday — both career highs.
"I thought he was going to get [on track] there in the fourth," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "A guy who's been pitching as well as him, you kind of wait for him to get back going a little bit. Just elevated some pitches he usually doesn't in some areas of the strike zone. Uncharacteristic of him. He was frustrated with it. He felt good. He had an extra day's rest. Everything was lined up pretty good. Just didn't work out for him. He'll get back on the horse."
The Orioles, meanwhile, have become unsaddled. With Thursday's loss the Orioles dropped to 6-19, which is their worst start through the first 25 games since 1988, when the Orioles lost a major league-record 21 straight games to open the season and were 2-23 after 25 games.
This team has lost 11 of its past 12 games, and 13 of 15 as it's dropped deeper into the American League East cellar, now five games back of Tampa Bay for fourth place in the division.
Bundy was averaging 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings — and his ability to miss bats, particularly with his slider has been the most impressive part of his emergence — but the hot-hitting Rays feasted on his fastball early. Cron's homer game on a 2-0 fastball, and one inning later, catcher Wilson Ramos tagged a 0-1 fastball for a two-run homer to hand Bundy a 4-0 deficit.
"Yeah, I'd say so," Bundy said when asked about the home-run ball hurting him. "Down 4-0 by the second inning, that's pretty tough to get out of. I just didn't really have good command tonight."
Of the 31 fastballs Bundy threw, he didn't record a single swinging strike. All four of the Rays' extra base hits came off fastballs.
Bundy was unable to get the key strikeout when he needed. He tried to lean on his other pitches, but allowed three straight singles to open the sixth inning and fell behind 5-0, then after a double play was overturned after a Tampa Bay challenge to put runners at the corners with one out, Ramos followed with a run-scoring single.
He wouldn't survive the fifth — his previous short start this season was 5 2/3 innings — as the Rays scored two more runs, capitalizing on Miller's leadoff double with a one-out RBI single by Joey Wendle and a two-out run-scoring single by Mallex Smith.
"I was trying to mix it up even more than I was, throw the curveball a little bit more and they were able to hit that, too," Bundy said. "They got off to a hot start there in two innings and I couldn't really slow them down."
Playing from behind the entire night, the Orioles scored two runs in the third on run-scoring hits by Trey Mancini and Manny Machado and then added two more runs in the fifth on Adam Jones' two-run homer, a hit that tied him with Boog Powell for fifth place on the Orioles' all-time extra-base hit list with 557.
Danny Valencia added his third homer in the eighth, a solo shot to left field to cut the lead to 8-5.
Tampa Bay added an insurance run in the ninth when catcher Chance Sisco's throw went into left field on Carlos Gomez's attempted steal of third base.
"Giving up eight runs or so, you're gonna feel pretty bad any day," Bundy said. "It doesn't matter what happens. I just didn't have it tonight. So I'll come back into work tomorrow and try to get better."
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