All the well-publicized precautions taken to keep Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy fresh through the second half of the season seem to be paying off, but there was something much simpler behind his masterful one-hit shutout Tuesday night.
It turns out Bundy still has all the notes of the dominant starting pitcher the Orioles saw in him as a first-round pick six years ago, and Tuesday, he had them all working in beautiful concert.
Bundy was in total command in the Orioles' 4-0 win over the Seattle Mariners, allowing just a fourth-inning bunt single to third baseman Kyle Seager and striking out a career-high 12 batters before an announced 13,736 on a cool night at Camden Yards.
"He was outstanding, obviously," manager Buck Showalter said. "That was fun to watch, especially when you think about everything that was at stake for both clubs."
Bundy's masterpiece and four solo home runs — two by third baseman Manny Machado and one apiece by second baseman Jonathan Schoop and catcher Welington Castillo — gave the Orioles (67-65) a sixth consecutive win and kept them 1.5 games out of the second wild-card playoff spot, held by the Minnesota Twins.
After a 32-minute rain delay to start the game, Seattle's leadoff batter reached when shortstop Tim Beckham was charged with an error. But Bundy swiftly navigated out of that and cruised until a pair of walks in the third inning. Seager's one-out bunt down the third base line was the only hit Seattle managed.
No exception was taken that the no-hitter was ultimately lost on the bunt — not with the Orioles in a shift leaving the left side of the infield open in what was a one-run game.
"It doesn't matter," Bundy said. "They're trying to win games, too. That's fine."
From there, Bundy retired 12 straight until another error by Beckham with one out in the eighth. Bundy retired the final two batters of that inning and hit Robinson Cano to open the ninth inning, but retired the final three batters to complete the game on 116 pitches.
Closer Zach Britton was warming up for the ninth inning, and Bundy said he was a little surprised to continue as he did, "but grateful, humbled to get a chance to go out there in the ninth and also get the chance to complete it."
Showalter knew it could be a special night for his 24-year-old right-hander as he watched some of the Mariners’ big bats such as Cano and former Oriole Nelson Cruz flummoxed by him.
“You look at really good hitters that don’t look particularly comfortable,” Showalter said. “I think that’s when it kind of makes you think … when he shows ability to throw all his pitches over the plate, then all of a sudden, third or fourth inning, I know he threw a curveball, I know for a strike, and I know if I’m in the dugout, I’m going, ‘Really? That, too?’ I usually watch the better hitters. That kind of gave me a feel the second time around the order that he had some pretty competitive stuff.”
Castillo knew it earlier than that.
"From the 'pen, he had great life on the fastball," Castillo said. "When he took the mound, everything was nice and smooth. I just let the flow go, go with the feeling, and what was working for him — everything was working for him."
Castillo had particular success putting down the fingers for Bundy's slider, which he threw 27 times and got 10 swinging strikes on. Bundy changed the shape on the pitch depending on the situation, sweeping it out and away from right-handed hitters and tightening it up against lefties. His fastball was regularly in the 92-93 mph range, as it has been all month.
"I just threw the curveball a couple times, but mainly just fastball, slider, change back there," Bundy said. "I felt good with all of my pitches, and location as well."
Activated off the bereavement list before the game after leaving the team over the weekend for a family funeral, Bundy was as sharp as ever pitching on five days of rest. And to Showalter, who has been with the Orioles for nearly all of Bundy's time with the organization and has seen his trajectory change from can't-miss prospect to injury question mark on his way to being a standout major leaguer, the circumstances he did so under made Bundy's evening all the more impressive.
Bundy managed a career-high 22 swinging strikes and struck out 10 or more opposing batters for the third time in his past four starts. It was the first Orioles' first complete-game shutout Miguel Gonzalez since did it Sept. 3, 2014, against the Cincinnati Reds. The only other Orioles pitcher to throw a one-hit shutout with at least 12 strikeouts was Mike Mussina on Aug. 1, 2000, against the Minnesota Twins.
"I don't think a lot of people have been through what Dylan's been through, and to battle back through it," Showalter said. "Sometimes, you forget that Dylan lost his mother and his grandmother at a young age and sometimes life forces you to grow up. This was a guy who was as good a high school prospect as a lot of people ever saw and then all of a sudden that's taken away from you with elbow surgery, and you've got to make some decisions whether you're going to push through it. Sometimes, it makes us a lot stronger when you get through those things."
Said Bundy: "It's been hectic, but I'm just taking it in stride and taking it one day in a time and go out there and pitch when it's my turn to pitch."
Bundy ends August with a 2.00 ERA in 36 innings, with 45 strikeouts and six walks. He lowered his season ERA to 3.94 and improved his record to 13-8.
Schoop strokes another one
Schoop opened the Orioles' scoring with a missile to left field that went for a two-out solo home run in the first inning, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead and temporarily giving him the team lead with 29 home runs.
It also marked Schoop's 500th career hit, a milestone that was followed in his next at-bat by his career-high 30th walk in the third inning.
Second time's a charm
With two on and one out in the third inning, Machado hit a ball that was caught at the wall by left fielder Ben Gamel for a frustrating out, and the Orioles ended up leaving the bases loaded.
Machado wouldn't let anything like that happen next time up. He got a fresh slate to open the sixth inning after Beckham was caught stealing to end the fifth, and shot a ball just over the left-field wall that Gamel tried to bring back into play but couldn't.
He added his second home run of the game and 30th of the season to lead off the eighth inning and extend the Orioles' lead to 4-0. Between his two blasts, Castillo hit his 15th home run of the season, a solo shot in the seventh.