Dylan Bundy's two homers allowed are too much for Orioles to overcome in loss to Nationals

Dylan Bundy’s strikeout numbers have seen an incredible spike this season as he’s found more ways to miss bats with his breaking ball, but when hitters have made contact, too often it’s been hard, and the result is Bundy allowing the highest home-run rate of his career.

On Tuesday night at Camden Yards, Bundy pitched well. He didn’t have his best strikeout stuff, and he allowed 11 hits, but he still held patient and dangerous Washington Nationals lineup at bay. But for the sixth time in his past seven starts, Bundy allowed multiple home runs, and even though both homers were solo shots, they were the difference in a 3-2 Orioles loss at Camden Yards.


With the Orioles having scored three runs or fewer in 11 of their past 13 games, Bundy and his Orioles rotation mates have had little margin for error.“That’s the whole point of the game of baseball, trying to not give more runs than we score,” Bundy said. “Just trying to limit damage there as much as I could and get out of every inning without giving up too many hits.”

In his past seven starts, Bundy has allowed 15 home runs, that after yielding just one over his first five starts of the season. He has given up 2.1 home runs per nine innings in 2018, the fourth-highest mark among qualifying major league starting pitchers.


“I kind of look at the body of work,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “In a lot of ways that's as impressive as his last outing. Obviously not statistically, but getting through six innings after the first couple of innings, that's how Dylan separates himself. I try to look at the end body of work. Three runs in six innings, it should be good enough to win a ballgame. But we're having a lot of challenges scoring runs now.”

But those numbers make Bundy an anomaly, because he is doing something no one in more than 100 years has done in terms of recording high strikeout and home run rates.

Bundy is the only qualifying major league starting pitcher to average more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings and allow more than two homers per nine innings. And no pitcher has done that in the course of an entire season since 1871, according to Baseball Reference.

The Orioles couldn't take advantage of early base runners against the Nationals on Tuesday night.

Bundy (3-7) was coming off his best start of the season, a dazzling complete game against the Chicago White Sox in which he recorded a career-high 14 strikeouts while allowing just two hits. The only runs against Bundy on that night came on a three-run homer by Chicago designated hitter José Rondón.

Tuesday’s loss to the Nationals might have been one of his grittiest outings of the season.

Bundy allowed a solo home run to Bryce Harper — his 17th homer of the season — on the second batter he faced, a first-pitch fastball that caught too much of the outer half of the plate to allow Harper to turn on the pitch and send it over the right-center-field fence.

“He's trying to go down and away first pitch and gets the ball in the middle,” Showalter said. “We know that Harper is always in swing mode. That's why he's such a good hitter.”

Former Orioles slugger Mark Reynolds homered to open the fourth, his sixth homer of the year, on a 1-0 fastball that was nearly the identical pitch he threw Harper, only the right-handed-hitting Reynolds turned on it and sent it inside the left-field foul pole.

May 29, 2018 -- The Orioles lose to the Nationals, 3-2. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)

Bundy recorded his team-high seventh quality start, allowing three runs over six innings.

He struck out six, and most of them were in big spots. After allowing the homer by Harper, he struck out the next two batters — Anthony Rendon and Matt Adams — to escape the first. He struck out catcher Luis Severino for the third out of the second, and he stranded two runners in scoring position by striking out Trea Turner in the fourth.

“They were huge,” Bundy said. “… [Catcher] Chance [Sisco] called a great game back there. Me and him were on the same page all night. Just trying to limit damage the whole night it seemed like.”

As has been the case throughout the season, Bundy recorded most of his strikeouts — four of the six — on sliders. It was the first time in his past four starts that he had fewer than seven strikeouts, but he still maintains a strikeout per nine innings of 10.88, which is 12th in the major leagues.

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