It’s a theme that fans around Birdland probably have to strongly consider this year: finding something positive and/or encouraging to take from a loss.
There were two pitching performances that fit that definition during a weekend when the Orioles got swept by the Twins to fall to 8-15 overall and to 1-9 at home. They were Tanner Scott’s dominant two innings on Saturday afternoon and Dylan Bundy’s solid outing on Sunday.
Scott has had some dominant outings among his now 60 career major league games. But Saturday probably ranks among the best of them. Minnesota led 6-4 when he came on to pitch in the top of the eighth. Over two innings, he retired all six batters he faced on just 21 pitches and struck out five of them.
He fanned Jason Castro, Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Marwin Gonzalez and Eddie Rosario. He threw his fastball 96 and 97 mph and his slider at 88 and 89 mph. He got six swings and misses on 13 sliders and got four of his strikeouts with that pitch.
Scott cannot always repeat his delivery and that leads to command issues and walks. But he sure did on Saturday.
“When it is going good, it’s easy to repeat,” he told me Sunday morning. “It’s as simple as walking down the street. Everything is smooth and you don’t overthink it or think about it. It’s smooth and the rhythm is there.”
Scott must wonder why he can’t have more of those dominant outings. If he could, he might be an All-Star-caliber reliever.
“I mean, it’s baseball. A tough game,” he said. “(Saturday) night I went in the game and was getting strike one, the most important thing. I was consistently in the strike zone. Definitely makes it easier, but it’s still not easy. It was working and now you try to carry that into the next game and the next game. The goal is consistency.”
Scott is 0-0 with a 1.59 ERA in five games over 5 2/3 innings. I asked him if the new coaching staff and new pitching coach Doug Brocail have presented him with new ideas to harness his command and help him realize his vast potential.
“Of course. I’m working every day,” he said. “Broc has been saying I’m drifting, meaning not going to the plate too quick. And when I’m drifting, I’m missing up and sometimes away. When everything is on time, there is a big difference. That is the biggest thing I am working on right now.”
For one night, Scott was throwing a high velocity fastball with a wipeout slider. It was impressive. Now he wants to find ways to make that happen more often.
As for Bundy, he entered Sunday’s start at 0-2 with a 7.79 ERA. But he provided the club its third quality start, allowing seven hits and four runs (two earned) over six innings in his longest outing of 2019. For the second time in five starts, he did not allow a home run. He bounced back from a first inning, where an error led to two unearned runs, and he blanked Minnesota in the fifth and sixth, keeping his team in the game.
Bundy used a more varied pitch mix Sunday. Coming into that start, he had thrown fastballs 56 percent of the time and his secondary pitches 44 percent through four starts. Yesterday, he threw 44 percent fastballs and 56 percent secondaries.
It was the first game this year in which he threw less than 50 percent fastballs and he showed the highest percentage use in a game this year of his changeup and curveball. Bundy has expressed the opinion that he can fall in love with his slider and sometimes others pitches get used much less.
On Sunday, he went from 21 percent slider usage on the year to throwing that pitch 18 percent. His changeup use went up from 18 percent this year to 24 percent. His curve use from 5 to 14 percent.
It seemed like a real solid pitch mix from a hurler that can show four solid pitches. It gives him the chance to be unpredictable, a word we hear often from manager Brandon Hyde when talking about his pitchers.
As some fans have wondered if Bundy should be moved to the bullpen and/or be used as an opener, I think we need to give the new staff more time to work with a kid that is still just 26. Yesterday was a nice step in the right direction for Bundy.