In its essence, baseball is a simple game.
Throw strikes, pitcher. You have a much better chance to succeed if you do that.
Much simpler said than done, of course.
If I could throw strikes effectively to big league hitters, I wouldn’t be behind a keyboard (I mean, now I would. I’m in my 40s. You get the point, though. Pitching is real hard).
Dylan Bundy’s masterpiece Wednesday night against a tough Toronto Blue Jays lineup – four hits, no walks, one run and eight strikeouts in seven innings — was a clinic in pitching. He threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes. He struck out the side in the first inning on 11 pitches.
“That was a little surprising. The slider was working a little bit better than I thought, but I think they were just anxious and so was I,” Bundy said. “I was amped up just because it was Game Two. It was a fun day.”
The key, again, was throwing strikes. Bundy located all four of his pitches, his fastball, curve, changeup and his vaunted slider/cutter, that the Orioles had him shelve last year as he made his way back from elbow and shoulder injuries.
“There’s some more right-handers in the lineup tonight, so I was using that (cutter/slider) a little bit more than I would, other than my change-up,” he said. “I was happy with it.”
It was working. Everything was seemingly working for Bundy.
“They haven’t seen much of him. … There was a little bit of potential for ambush factor early in the game, but he kept them — as much as he could — off balance and they had to honor all his pitches,” manager Buck Showalter said. “When you give them three different looks and they have to honor three different pitches – really four tonight – you like your chances.”
Keeping a hitter off balance is always big.
But here’s what was bigger. Bundy attacked every hitter.
He threw strike one – or had the first pitch put in play – to the first 13 batters he faced. That’s pretty incredible. He threw a first pitch strike to 19 of his first 22 batters.
It’s funny, just when I started counting his first-pitch strikes, he threw a first-pitch ball to each of the three Jays batters in the seventh, his last inning.
But by then he was in such control, that pinpoint control wasn’t as much an issue.
The players behind the 24-year-old Bundy – who have seen plenty of Orioles’ pitchers nibble over the years – appreciated the game plan.
“I’ve been saying a while, if they attack the zone and allow the defense to work for them, good things happen,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “And he attacked the zone just as Gausman did the other (day), so I tip my cap to our pitching staff the first two games, attacking that strike zone. Seeing how good our defense is by using us.”
The defense was good. The game plan was good.
Bundy, on this night, was great.