ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Dylan Bundy finished his warmup tosses and headed into the visiting dugout at Tropicana Field, waiting for the top of the first inning to be completed and his latest start to officially unfold.
It was meaningful on various levels. Bundy’s schedule moving forward might have been influenced by his performance. Of far greater importance, he could play stopper for a club that lost 12 of its last 16 games and continued to share last place with the Blue Jays. And a quality outing might enable to Orioles to end their streak of allowing five runs or more at 20 games in a row.
Sharing a dubious record is better than owning it.
Rays leadoff hitter Mallex Smith lined Bundy’s fourth pitch of the day into left field for a single. Not a problem. Corey Dickerson and Evan Longoria hit back-to-back home runs with two outs in the third to tie the game. That was a problem.
Bundy didn’t surrender another run, Mark Trumbo broke the tie with a clutch two-out double in the seventh and the Orioles defeated the Rays 8-3 at Tropicana Field.
Trumbo lined a two-run double to left-center field off former Orioles farmhand Jumbo Díaz and Trey Mancini followed with a two-run homer to right.
Welington Castillo and Adam Jones also homered for the Orioles, who won for only the fifth time in 17 games and took sole possession of fourth place. They got an insurance run off Díaz in the eighth on infield hits by Joey Rickard and Paul Janish - the latter on botched bunt coverage - and Manny Machado’s sacrifice fly to the center field fence.
Bundy allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings, with four walks and eight strikeouts, and the Orioles had their third quality start in 19 games. They share the record for consecutive games allowing at least five runs with the 1924 Phillies after Mychal Givens replaced Donnie Hart in the eighth, stranded two runners on one pitch and worked a scoreless ninth.
Bundy completed seven innings for the sixth time this season and the first since May 29 against the Yankees. The Orioles had one start of seven innings in their last 21 games, courtesy of Ubaldo Jiménez on June 18 versus the Cardinals.
The decisive rally in the seventh started with Seth Smith’s walk against left-hander José Alvarado. Machado reached on a bunt single against Díaz, who retired the next two batters to bring up Trumbo with two in scoring position. Trumbo worked the count full and found the gap.
Mancini found the seats in right for his 13th home run. More success against a right-hander.
Prone to sizeable early deficits that suck the air out of a team, the Orioles struck first today on Castillo’s two-run homer in the second inning off Rays rookie Jacob Faria, making only his fourth major league start. Faria hit Mancini before Castillo came to the plate.
Faria also hit Jonathan Schoop in the first inning. Castillo delivered the hardest shot.
Jones’ home run in the third came on a ball that appeared to strike the top of the center field fence and bounce over it. Mallex Smith was poised to make the play and caught air.
Bundy registered a shutdown inning in the second, proving that it can happen without citations or electrical shock. But Dickerson and Longoria went deep on consecutive pitches in the third, the former a two-run shot after Bundy walked Smith.
The Rays set a club record and lead the majors with 10 back-to-back home runs this season. A quick check of the calendar confirms that it’s June.
Bundy issued three walks in the third after retiring the side in order with two strikeouts the previous inning. He proceeded to retire seven in a row, gave up a leadoff single to Longoria in the sixth and got a double play and strikeout.
Manager Buck Showalter has talked about adjusting Bundy’s schedule to provide more rest, moving him back following Monday’s off-day, starting him right before the break and pushing him to the back of the rotation after play resumes. But he left some wiggle room
“We’ll see how he does today,” Showalter said before the game. “There’s something called the eyeball test. We’ve got something set up all the way through fifth starter post All-Star break, but it can be adjusted depending on what we see tonight. I talked to Dylan after every start just about and will continue to do that.
“We’ve got a plan. We actually considered that with just not Dylan, either.”
Bundy gave up two hits in the first, but he didn’t allow a run and needed only 12 pitches. Logan Morrison reached on an infield single to the left side against the shift with two outs, but Smith took a wide turn at second and got caught in a rundown.
The Orioles had a chance to take the lead in the fifth after Machado’s single, Longoria’s fielding error and a wild pitch with one out, but Faria escaped the jam.
Bundy and the bullpen enabled the Orioles to escape more questions about an obscure record. The streak is done. They’re trying to show the baseball world that they are not.
Showalter on how it all started with his starter: “That’s an example of why we think so much of him makeup-wise. He gives up that three-spot and just goes on about his business and doesn’t implode and gets us deep in the game.”
Showalter on not caring about the streak: “I told you, it’s all relevant. I know people look for numbers to see some trend and bring it up. Until you guys brought it up a few days ago, I didn’t ... It’s one thing to identify a problem, it’s another thing to solve it. We’re in the business of trying to solve issues. You start by looking at them and realizing you have them, but I don’t think anybody’s got to tell us we’ve had problems with our starting pitching.”
Showalter on tempo making a difference: “The tempo and the rhythm of the defense goes a lot with that. And people that haven’t been in the arena, they don’t understand that. But there’s a reason why good defensive plays are made in games like that. So it’s been a challenge. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a reality. I talked to all the pitchers the other day in a meeting about picking up our tempo and rhythm a little bit. With the exception of (Wade) Miley. We’d like for him to slow down a little bit. Just kidding.”
Showalter on Bundy’s stuff: “I think he had more weapons at his disposal. One pitch, I don’t think he had much feel for, but he still made them think about it. His command was a lot better. This is a great place to pitch. It’s one of the best pitchers parks in baseball.”
Showalter Machado’s bunt: “There’s always something good happening from something like that. Good things seem to follow. I thought that was a big part of the inning. Just the atmosphere of the inning seemed to kind of lean our way.”
Showalter on Trumbo: “I don’t think anybody hits a prettier hard line drive from the infield than Mark. It’s just fun to watch. He squared it up. He was a little frustrated from his previous at-bat, but these guys, they don’t dwell on it. You got to move on in this game. I thought that was a big knock. A big knock and some add-on runs. Cassie (Castillo) got us off to a good start with a two-run homer, too.”
Bundy on satisfying win: “Absolutely. It’s a great game all around. We were hitting the ball for homers, sacrifice flies, good bunts, then defense played great behind me. Double play balls and running down the fly balls.”
Bundy on settling down after home runs: “I started pitching in a little bit more. Just trying to make them get a little bit off the plate. They were leaning out over there. They hit my pitches. Those were two good pitches and I’ve got to tip my hat to them.”
Bundy on better than last start: “Yeah, I guess. Still three or four walks. I don’t know how many. Three, four. I’d lose it a little bit later in the count when trying to be too fine with some of my offspeed pitches and run myself into a 3-2 count and not make a quality pitch on a 3-2 count. I’ll work on it in my next bullpen.”
Bundy on perhaps getting more rest: “Physically, I’m great. I think that’s 16 starts and last year I made 14. I think that everybody saw that I was a little tired last year after the 12 or so. I feel great this year. Sixteen starts in and I’m feeling stronger than I did after the first start of the year, so I feel good about it.”
Castillo on home run: “It was big, just to give a little bit of confidence to the pitcher to go out there and throw strikes. He did what he does best. He was attacking the strike zone, attacking the hitter with his fastball and changeup, slider after that. It’s great to see him do that.”
Castillo of importance of quality start: “It was very important because we’ve been a little bit struggling. Holding that offense through seven innings, that means a lot. We need that from him, and all the starters, just to give a little break to the ‘pen.”
Castillo on Bundy’s confidence: “He goes out there every outing, even when he doesn’t have his best stuff, he’s going to give you all he’s got that day. He’s going to be competing, he’s going to be trying to attack the strike zone even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. That’s not a problem for him. He made good pitches today and he gave us a chance to win.”