It probably didn’t matter how well Dylan Bundy pitched Saturday. When Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale is on his game, anyone starting against him has to be better than good.
Bundy was very good for five innings. He allowed just four hits and equaled his season high with eight strikeouts. But the Red Sox reeled off four straight hits to open the sixth and knocked him out of the game on the way to a 7-2 victory over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 30,050 at Camden Yards.
Sale, who gave up just three hits over eight innings and struck out 14 in his previous start against the Orioles (21-49), wasn’t quite as overpowering this time, but Bundy blinked first.
Bundy (3-8) allowed a single to Rafael Devers to start the sixth and a double to Xander Bogaerts to break the scoreless tie. When Brock Holt and Michael Chavis followed with consecutive singles, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde had seen enough and Bundy had thrown enough — 98 pitches.
“I thought he was throwing the ball good,’’ Hyde said. “First of all, he battled through five innings and was fantastic, pitched out of jams and left it out there for us. The sixth inning, he was still not getting hit hard, but did allow four consecutive base hits.”
Reliever Richard Bleier took over and gave himself a chance to get out of the inning, but the Red Sox scratched out an unearned run when third baseman Hanser Alberto let a ground ball off the bat of catcher Sandy León get by him for an error.
The Orioles offense did not go down without a response. Alberto and Trey Mancini, who tried to start an early scoring rally with back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the first inning, began the Orioles sixth with consecutive hits and — this time — Sale could not leave them stranded.
Sale (3-7) allowed a one-out RBI double to Renato Núñez and a sacrifice fly to Jonathan Villar to make it a one-run game before ending the inning with his 10th strikeout.
It was the fourth straight start in which Sale rolled up a double-digit strikeout total, and the eighth time in his past nine games. His 130 strikeouts this season rank him third in the majors behind Houston Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole (140) and Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer (136).
Bundy was charged with just two earned runs and has allowed three or fewer in all but two of his starts this season, including eight straight. But high pitch counts have limited his innings and explain his 4.44 ERA.
He did not give up a home run for the first time since a May 17 win at the Cleveland Indians, but the four-hit sixth inning took him to his highest hits allowed total (8) of the season.
“I made a couple mistakes to a couple of hitters there and they were able to get the ball out in the outfield,” Bundy said, “but for the most part, I was making most of my pitches there and they were just able to squeeze them through the infield and it didn’t go our way.”
The Red Sox (38-34) added a run in the seventh inning on J.D. Martinez’s third home run of the series and fourth in five games at Oriole Park this year. But it was a tight game until the Orioles’ defense unraveled in the late innings and the Red Sox padded their lead with three runs off reliever Miguel Castro in the ninth.
Alberto continues to rake against even the best left-handed pitching. He had two hits in three at-bats against Sale to raise his major league-leading average against lefties to .424.
Mancini’s two-hit performance moved him into a tie at the top of the American League total base rankings with Minnesota Twins shortstop Jorge Polanco, who entered the day also leading the league with a .335 average and 88 hits.