The Orioles’ Dylan Bundy had not pitched well in three career starts against the Minnesota Twins.
But on a picture-perfect 68-degree afternoon at Camden Yards, Bundy changed all that: He pitched seven shutout innings in the Orioles’ 3-2 win against the Twins in their season-opening game.
It was his first career opening day start. His seven-inning performance was the longest by an Orioles starter since Jake Arrieta went seven shutout innings at Camden Yards in 2012.
Bundy, the Orioles’ best pitcher last season, was never in trouble, but he did get help from right fielder Craig Gentry’s leaping catch against the fence to rob the Twins’ Eddie Rosario of a home run in the second inning.
And after a leadoff single to Joe Mauer in the sixth, Bundy got Miguel Sano to hit into an around-the-horn double play started by the Orioles’ new third baseman, Tim Beckham.
What made Bundy so good?
“He’s getting established, little by little,” as one of the elite starters in the game, Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “His fastball had extra life when he needed it. His breaking ball was good and his changeup was good.”
“He had a really good changeup,” Twins third baseman Miguel Sanó said. “He executed his pitches, didn’t give us anything to hit. He’s getting experience.”
Bundy retired the Twins in order in each of the first two innings, even though the Twins were able tag him for long, hard-hit outs. Five of the first six outs recorded by Bundy were on the warning track, including Rosario’s near home run.
“We hit him well early, but the line drives were caught,” said Logan Morrison, the Twins’ new DH after hitting 38 home runs for Tampa Bay last season. “After that, he (adjusted), and started mixing in his slider more. His heater - the four-seam - was effective.”
Said outfielder Byron Buxton: “Bundy mixed up his slider and fastball. He used his slider more than we expected. But that’s what good pitchers do.”
The Twins are a young team with high expectations after what happened in 2017.
Last year, they made the postseason for the first time since 2010 in bizarre fashion. They traded their closer, Brandon Kintzler, to the Nationals in late July and then went on a 35-24 run in the final two months to qualify as the second American League wild card team.
They lost to the Yankees in the wild card game.
The season marked a turnaround. They went from 53 victories in 2016 to 85 during 2017. The slow free agent market and trades during the winter allowed them to add three relievers (Zach Duke, Fernando Rodney and Addison Reed), two starters (Jake Odorizzi and Lance Lynn) and the lefty-swinging Morrison.
Last year, the Twins went to the postseason despite using 36 pitchers. This year, they figure the additions will stabilize the pitching.
Odorizzi, acquired from Tampa Bay for a minor league shortstop, made his 14th start of at least six shutout innings.
“We’ve got pitching,’’ Sanó said. “We’re going to have a good season.’‘