Notes on ending two losing streaks, Bundy’s slider and more

So the Orioles got a much-needed win over a good team with Friday’s 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians. They ended an 11-game losing streak. Yes, I know they had lost their previous six games. But they had also lost their previous 11 games when scoring three runs or fewer. The Orioles were 1-11 on the year in such games. The only previous win was opening day, 3-2 over Minnesota.

It had to be nice for the team and its fans to get a win and at least a small glimmer of hope that they might begin to play better. The hole they dug for themselves remains massive. Their overall record is 6-14.

dylan-bundy-white-side.jpgFor right-hander Dylan Bundy, the new staff ace, there have been five very solid starts this year. He has given his team a chance to win each time, allowing two earned runs or fewer in five out of of five appearances. On four occasions, he allowed either one or no earned runs. That the Orioles are 2-3 in his starts is much more about the hitting than Bundy’s pitching.

Going into last night, Bundy’s slider has been about as good as that of any pitcher in the game this year, garnering swings and misses 35 percent of the time. Then he threw 29 more sliders and got 13 whiffs last night for a 45 percent rate. Impressive, but that is actually not even his best of this year.

Swings and misses on Bundy’s slider in 2018:

* March 29 versus Minnesota: 12 of 24 for 50 percent
* April 4 at Houston: 4 of 24 for 17 percent
* April 9 versus Toronto: 12 of 27 for 44 percent
* April 15 at Boston: 8 of 27 for 30 percent
* April 20 versus Cleveland: 13 of 29 for 45 percent

The stats are courtesy of the Baseball Savant website.

The pitch has become such a weapon for a pitcher who also can throw a plus changeup and curveball. But right now those secondary pitches are taking a back seat to his slider.

For the season, Bundy has fanned 40 batters over 31 2/3 innings. He ranks second in the American League. If he pitched 200 innings he would finish with 252 strikeouts. That would shatter the Orioles single-season record, which is 221 by Erik Bedard in 2007.

In 2016, Bundy averaged 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings and last year he averaged 8.1 per nine. This season he is averaging 11.4 per nine innings. Last season just two pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title exceeded that number. Chris Sale of Boston averaged a remarkable 12.9 per nine and Cleveland’s Corey Kluber, the Cy Young winner, was at 11.7 per nine.

Shortstop Manny Machado homered for the third time in two games last night. It was his first career homer on a 3-0 pitch when he connected off Trevor Bauer in the fourth to forge a 1-1 tie. Machado blasted a 93 mph fastball 409 feet.

Coming into the game he had a career slash line of .167/.819/.222 on 3-0 pitches. His homer was his third in a span of six at-bats going back to Thursday afternoon in Detroit.

The next inning Trey Mancini hit a 109.4 mph rocket for a two-run double that gave the Orioles a 3-1 lead. As good as Mancini has been this season, he was just 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position until that double.

Now the Orioles will await further news on Mancini’s right knee, which slammed into the wall when he dove for a foul fly ball in the eighth inning. His knee hit below the padding on the wall and Mancini had to leave the game.

With Friday’s win, the Orioles are now 5-9 (.357) versus 2017 playoff teams and 1-5 (.167) versus teams that failed to make the playoffs last year.

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