Dylan Bundy's starts are back to being an occasion, and if nothing else matters in this lost Orioles season, there's plenty of solace to be taken in that.
With eight shutout innings in Monday night’s 2-0, 12-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox before a light announced crowd of 15,934 at Camden Yards, Bundy made a second straight scoreless start and was made to sweat out the result yet again.
The latter part can be expected from a fallow Orioles offense missing its top star, Manny Machado. The Orioles stranded 13 on the night and lost after Mychal Givens loaded the bases and allowed a pair of sacrifice flies in the 12th.
But after a few uncharacteristic outings that spoiled his spectacular start to the season, Bundy is back to the form where his starts being appointment viewing is an expectation for him, too.
“I've always thought, and I think we all felt like he could [be elite],” manager Buck Showalter said. “I know some people thought he kind of sticks out sometimes as one of those guys who could do that. Much of it's got to do with his mindset and his presentation. That's why you pitch guys like that on Opening Day. A lot of people [think], ‘OK, the club's struggling and you're facing the Red Sox.’ He wants that challenge. He doesn't back away from it. He's always had that elite mindset that you look for in all players, especially guys that you want to be taking the ball every fifth day in a meaningful situation.”
Sometimes, as it was when he had all four pitches working when he struck out 14 in a complete game in Chicago last month, it's the kind of marvelous outing that makes batters look silly. Others have been like Monday, when he's had the swing-and-miss stuff when he needs it but rides his fastball with finish and location to a comfortable day.
And considering Bundy, under team control for three more seasons after this one, will be around for whatever comes next for these Orioles (19-46) in transition, this kind of return from their 2011 top draft pick will always be a welcome one.
“Dylan was as good as you want to see,” Showalter said. “That's a really tough lineup to go through, and he was outstanding.”
As he did in some of his early-career starts against Boston, Bundy challenged a lineup that feasts on fastballs with lots of them, throwing the pitch 64.1 percent of the time. He only threw it more often only in the May 8 start against the Kansas City Royals, when he went one inning and had nothing.
The opposite was true Monday. He needed little else to turn the Red Sox lineup over three times without much resistance. Andrew Benintendi harmlessly singled in the first and fourth innings, and became the first Red Sox player to reach second base when he walked and stole second base with two outs in the sixth.
“It's a good pitch them going in there, or I feel like it is,” Bundy said. “I was going in there and it was working, so we kept with it.”
June 11, 2018 -- The Orioles are shut out for 12 innings and lose to the Red Sox, 2-0. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)
There was nothing for the high-powered Red Sox offense to get excited about, save for the final out Bundy recorded, which was a towering warning-track fly ball to left field from Mookie Betts. Pitching opposite knuckleballer Steven Wright, who also carried a shutout bid into the eighth inning, Bundy ended up with more swinging strikes (11 to nine) and just as much weak contact.
Bundy has pitched 17 scoreless innings in a row, dating to his May 29 start against the Washington Nationals.
“You could say that [it’s a good run],” Bundy said. “Body feels good, arm feels great. Just taking the ball every five days and trying to give our team a chance to win.”
Monday has helped make this second standout run for Bundy this year nearly as good as the first. He had a 1.42 ERA with 11.87 strikeouts per nine and a 1.11 WHIP through five starts and had excelled in every way imaginable before allowing nine home runs and 19 earned runs in nine innings over his next three starts.
Bundy turned in his ninth quality start of the season, and the Orioles' 32nd. The Orioles have lost 18 of them as a team, tied for most in the majors. The bullpen followed Bundy with three scoreless innings from Richard Bleier, Brad Brach, and Mychal Givens before Givens loaded the bases in the 12th and allowed a pair of sacrifice flies.
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