After the final out of Saturday’s sixth inning, Dylan Bundy was the first in orange out of the Orioles’ Camden Yards dugout for the seventh inning. When the top of the eighth began, he was there again, making his way out to and atop a mound that hadn’t seen him that late in a game in nearly a year.
A start such as the one Bundy delivered in the Orioles’ 3-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, pitching 7 1/3 innings in Baltimore’s first shutout of the season, was a long time coming. The 26-year-old right-hander hadn’t completed seven innings since July 29 of last season; Jonathan Schoop started at the second base, the Orioles’ teardown not yet complete.
That July start also came against the Rays, and before Saturday, the Orioles had a 2-15 record in Bundy’s starts since that summer outing. With four pitches working effectively as he carved through the team leading the American League East, Bundy earned his first win of 2019 and second in 18 starts.
“It’s been a while,” Bundy said.
Bundy produced the Orioles’ longest start of the season, which also marked only their fifth start of at least six innings and second of at least seven. It also reflected the type of showing that manager Brandon Hyde has been waiting to see from his starting pitchers, who entered the day tied with the Rays and their opener strategy for the second-fewest innings per start in baseball.
“That was a major league start,” Hyde said. “That was really enjoyable, there’s no doubt. To have a guy be able to throw offspeed stuff in hitter’s counts, be able to not give in and be able to throw the fastball on the inner part of the plate and then off the inner part of the plate is something I’m begging our guys to do.
“He did that tonight, and hopefully, we’re gonna see more of that.”
The start lowered Bundy’s ERA from 6.67 to 5.30 after an inconsistent beginning to the season. Bundy allowed at least three runs in each of his first six starts, but he was able to end Saturday unscathed with the help of reliever Shawn Armstrong and a favorable umpire ruling.
Bundy’s night ended one out into the eighth inning when Michael Perez doubled for Tampa Bay’s first hit since the second. Armstrong entered to face Willy Adames as Bundy exited to a standing ovation. Adames hit a light chopper back toward the mound, but Armstrong’s throw sailed over first baseman Chris Davis as Perez came home.
Umpires ruled that Adames had been too far inside the first-base line and he was called out, and after a long discussion between Rays manager Kevin Cash and the officials, Perez returned to second base. Armstrong ended the inning and closed Bundy’s scoreless line with a three-pitch strikeout of Brandon Lowe (Maryland).
Bundy’s previous starts in 2019 had been littered with home runs and bad breaks. There were none of either Saturday, not even on his first pitch, which Lowe hit to right for a single. Bundy needed only eight more pitches to finish the frame without issue.
The Orioles (12-22) backed him with an early run. Yonny Chirinos, who the Rays (21-12) started in place of opener Ryne Stanek because of a threat of rain in Baltimore, allowed a first-pitch double to Jonathan Villar to begin the bottom of the first. Trey Mancini followed with his first hit in nine at-bats since re-entering the lineup after a finger injury, putting runners on the corners. Dwight Smith Jr. grounded into a double play, but Villar came home for the game’s first run.
The lead looked as if it could be short-lived when Avisail Garcia, who hit a two-run homer off Bundy when the teams met last month in Florida, started the second with a double, but Bundy retired the next three batters to strand Garcia at third and begin a run of 10 straight Rays retired.
“For Dylan to do what he did tonight against a really good lineup and a playoff-contending club is impressive,” Hyde said. “It’s impressive to be able to have four pitches going and I just loved the way he was locating his heater. He just did a great job.”
In that time, the Orioles tripled their lead. Stevie Wilkerson and Austin Wynns, the bottom two hitters in Hyde’s lineup, opened the third with back-to-back singles before Villar brought Wilkerson home with a fielder’s choice, and Smith smashed a solo shot, his sixth home run, to dead center in the fourth.
It was more than enough for Bundy, though he ran into trouble in the fifth. A four-pitch walk to Daniel Robertson ended his consecutive outs streak, and he hit Perez to bring the tying run to the plate. Bundy recovered and got Adames to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“This is a great build-off [point] for his next start,” said Wynns, who caught Bundy for the second straight outing. “That’s what he needs. He’s looking good. He’s looking healthy. It’s gonna be good.”
When Bundy took the mound in the eighth inning, it marked the first time he had done so since pitching eight shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox nearly 11 months ago. When the announced crowd of 15,241 rose to cheer him as he exited, that, too, was long awaited.
“It's always great to go out there for that eighth inning and go out there for as many innings as you can and give your bullpen a break,” Bundy said. “You feel like you really did your job going out there in the eighth inning.”