Both Dylan Bundy and the Orioles have spent the season trying to keep the ball inside the park by any means necessary.
In a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday at Camden Yards, the unlucky right-hander found there are foibles to that, too, as the team’s pitching staff had a homerless game it could be proud of but didn’t get rewarded as a pair of late comeback attempts fell short and the Orioles were swept in the three-game series.
“It's tough to lose that game,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“We did a nice job on the mound. We were just a run short — had opportunities in the eighth, didn't cash in, and put together a nice rally in the ninth inning. It just didn't happen.”
The Orioles left the bases loaded in the eighth inning and scored once in the ninth before loading them and leaving them that way again, all in an effort to erase an early deficit born out of some outfield misfortune.
Bundy's second pitch was a simple-looking fly ball to left field that Dwight Smith Jr. appeared to lose in the sun for a three-base error that came around to score two pitches later in the Twins’ two-run first inning.
And after Minnesota tacked on a run in the third inning, a fourth scored when a hard line drive by Byron Buxton hit the left-field wall for a double after Smith took one step in.
Two fly balls later, Buxton scored, and the Orioles' light offensive showing meant that even a day in which they didn't allow a home run — after giving up 11 in Saturday’s double-header, setting the major league record for the most surrendered before May 1 with 57 — resulted in another loss, their fifth in six games, to complete a home sweep by the visiting Twins. It’s the Orioles' second home sweep suffered the season.
In between those misplays, Smith made a diving catch toward the left-field line to keep the second inning scoreless. But it proved damaging enough for Bundy either way, even if he deserved better.
“Bundy was good,” Hyde said. “Gave us six really good innings, kept us in the game. I liked the way he pitched to both sides of the plate, pitched well against a good lineup.”
All that misfortune came on a day in which Bundy continued a relatively positive progression, at least from where he started the season. Bundy allowed three runs in 3 2/3 innings in each of his first two starts, then allowed four home runs in five innings in start No. 3 against the Oakland Athletics before allowing three runs in five innings Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Considering the first two runs were unearned, Bundy's six innings with two earned runs allowed on seven hits with a walk and four strikeouts Sunday gave him the Orioles' third quality start of the season and his first in five tries this season. He lowered his ERA to 6.56.
“It was a little bit better,” Bundy said. “Wish I had done a little bit better there in the first inning there, trying to limit them to just one run instead of two. Just kind of had to battle today to keep their offense from scoring too many runs there.”
Before Bundy's, the Orioles didn't have a quality start since April 2 against the Toronto Blue Jays, when Andrew Cashner pitched six shutout innings.
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By the time Bundy left, the Orioles were in the midst of having 11 straight batters retired by Twins pitching. They loaded the bases in the eighth inning, only for third baseman Rio Ruiz to ground out to the pitcher on a check-swing.
Jonathan Villar singled home a consolation run in the ninth inning, but pinch-hitter Pedro Severino flew out to right field with the bases loaded in the ninth.
Smith scores two...
The Orioles did all their damage in the third inning, thanks in part to Smith making up for his first-inning misplay by erasing those two runs that came in thanks to his error. Villar and Trey Mancini reached on a fielder's choice and a single, respectively, and were on second and third after a wild pitch by Twins starter Kyle Gibson when Smith singled to center field to score them both.
... then leaves
Smith had another adventurous moment when he and Joey Rickard had a communication error on a ball in the gap that Smith ultimately caught in the sixth inning, but that was his last contribution before leaving the game in the top of the seventh with right quadriceps tightness.
The Orioles scratched Smith from the lineup last Sunday with similar soreness, and have been cautious with him since.
Phillips heads off the Twins
Right-hander Evan Phillips gave the Orioles two scoreless innings of relief in the seventh and eighth before Mychal Givens kept it a two-run game with a scoreless ninth.
After a long double-header Saturday, they allowed manager Brandon Hyde to conserve some bullpen arms for the three-game series beginning Monday against the Chicago White Sox.