Dylan Bundy's mysterious funk began here 18 days ago against these same Tampa Bay Rays. They were also party to its emphatic end.
Five days after Bundy allowed four home runs and faced seven batters without recording an out against the Kansas City Royals, he corrected what ailed him with seven spectacular innings of two-hit shutout ball with seven strikeouts in the Orioles' 17-1 rout of the visiting Rays on Sunday.
Bundy helped the Orioles (13-28) complete a third straight home series win, and made them winners of five of six. Their most comprehensive win of the season, before an announced Mother's Day crowd of 25,257, saw them bat around twice and smack 19 hits. But it was made sweeter by the fact that Bundy followed up each big inning with a zero that put his disastrous run further and further behind him.
"Dylan was crisper," manager Buck Showalter said. "I would have been real surprised if he didn't have a good outing today. I would have been real surprised."
Between starts, Bundy said he identified a few minor things in his delivery that were causing him to not get full finish on his pitches. A little groin tweak from the preceding start on the road against the Los Angeles Angels didn't help matters against the Royals, when everything was flat and over the heart of the plate. That's a rarity for someone with a precocious pitching hand that typically manipulates a baseball however he wants. His fastball typically rises. His slider bites and dives. Showalter said the evidence was there early that Bundy had some of that finish back.
"Just his ability to get over his front leg a little bit more, his ability to get into his drive leg a little more," Showalter said. "Dylan, if you've been around him, when he's pitching well, he's able to get off his back leg and post up on his front leg with a little silhouete in the back, as you notice with his leg. He wasn't doing that, I didn't think. And Roger didn't think."
Said Bundy: "Just trying to reach more towards the plate and get finish on all my pitchers really, and getting that little bit of extension I need to get to put the life on my pitches that they need."
A five-pitch walk to leadoff man Denard Span made it seem like Bundy might not have those traits back Sunday. He quickly disproved that notion with strikeouts of Joey Wendle and Wilson Ramos, the former swinging through a 94 mph fastball and the latter looking at an 83 mph slider.
His remaining five strikeouts came on sliders, too. The pitch was back to the wipeout state that helped Bundy to a 1.42 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 32 innings over his first five starts. He threw it 25 times and got 10 swinging strikes on it, though of the five times it was put into play, it accounted for the only two hits against him. Matt Duffy doubled with two outs in the fourth inning, and C.J. Cron doubled to open the sixth.
Bundy stranded both men, and of the six runners to reach on those hits and his four walks, only Cron ended up reaching third base. Bundy saw his ERA drop from 5.31 to 4.53 with his second outing of seven shutout innings this season and his fifth quality start in nine tries.
"Mechanically, I did some things between starts to try to get better," Bundy said. "I've still got some work to do with the fastball command, but overall, felt better with my secondary pitches and just attacking hitters."
His ability to post quick innings — he threw 100 pitches in seven innings and never faced more than four Rays in a frame — was welcome to a group of Orioles bats who feasted on Rays pitching and forced Tampa Bay to use outfielder Johnny Field to cover the ninth inning from the mound.
This time, instead of Bundy, it was Rays reliever Andrew Kittredge who faced seven batters and didn't record an out.
Third baseman Danny Valencia led the way for the Orioles on offense with four hits, including a home run, with four RBIs, while newly recalled outfielder Joey Rickard homered twice and drove in five runs. Shortstop Manny Machado had two hits and scored three times, while second baseman Jonathan Schoop had a pair of hits himself; each had two RBIs.