Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Bundy's rollercoaster; Offense stays dark with Gray; Machado stays for now - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Myriad Orioles Thoughts: Bundy’s rollercoaster; Offense stays dark with Gray; Machado stays for now

It’s been a tale of two seasons for Dylan Bundy. Or maybe four.

The Orioles’ de facto No. 1 starter has, overall, provided more good than bad on the mound this year. But when he’s bad, it happens in chunks.

Going through Bundy’s game logs, you can draw pretty clear lines between his stretches of excellence and his stretches of ineptitude. He started the season on fire, posting a 1.42 ERA in his first five outings, throwing four quality starts in that span and never giving up more than two earned runs.

Then, as if a switch flipped, he was torpedoed in each of his next three starts, giving up at least seven runs in each and failing to make it past the fifth inning. That included a brutal outing against the Kansas City Royals in which he allowed seven runs without retiring a batter.

Bundy promptly found a groove again, enjoying an eight-start stretch in which his ERA was 2.60 and all but two outings were quality starts. He had at least five strikeouts in each and held opponents to four runs or fewer. His season seemed to be back on track before he landed on the DL with a left ankle sprain

Now, it seems, Bundy is back on the bumpy stretch of his 2018 roller coaster ride. In his two starts since returning from the DL, Bundy has failed to make it past the fourth and has coughed up five earned runs in each. On Wednesday night, the New York Yankees did all their damage against him in a five-run third inning that featured two singles, a pair of walks and the crushing blow, a Greg Bird grand slam. Bundy threw 39 pitches in that inning.

“In fairness to Dylan, they had some really good at-bats,” said manager Buck Showalter. “They spit on some pitches. They foul off pitches. I can’t tell you how many times in the course of a game, you see a pitch thrown, that’s strike three in the minor leagues. Guys have a way up here of fouling pitches off and making you make it again.

“That’s kind of what happened with Bird. He kept fouling off pitches and then he got a ball that Dylan made a mistake on. When you’re throwing that many pitches, they’re seeing everything you’ve got to offer. I think command of the fastball is not quite what he wants it to be.”

“It’s just a good lineup over there,” said Bundy. “Big, strong guys, and they were able to fist some balls in some areas. I missed my spot by a few inches here and there, but for the most part, I thought I had good stuff. Just missing a little bit off the plate.”

The 25-year-old Bundy has flashed plenty of potential this season. He certainly looks to be the type of pitcher the Orioles can build around if they reshape their roster in the upcoming months, as they’re expected to do. Under team control through 2021, Bundy figures to be a mainstay in the club’s rotation for the foreseeable future.

Still, Bundy’s bouts of ineffectiveness have continued to hold him back. He’s been too erratic to establish himself as a true ace, and it raises the question of what role he’ll fill going forward. Ultimately, Bundy could settle in as more of a mid-rotation starter — a guy who will pitch well more often than not, and look dominant at times, but won’t consistently rack up great outings.

There’s plenty of value in that, of course. But those expecting the Orioles’ former No. 4 overall pick in 2011 to emerge as a front-line hurler may end up disappointed.

Orioles sing the blues against Gray

First off — how do you like the subtitle? I sifted through a few options.

“Gray clouds Orioles’ bats.”

“Outlook isn’t Sonny for the Orioles.”

“Sonny Gray, sweepin’ the bats away…” (Sung to the tune of the Sesame Street theme.)

Wordplay aside, the gist is that Yankees’ starter Sonny Gray dominated the Orioles on Wednesday, something he’s done against them this season — and rarely against anyone else.

Gray entered the night with a 5-7 record and 5.85 ERA, sticking out as the weak link in the Yankees’ rotation. Lately, he’s been getting booed by his home fans at Yankee Stadium. In 17 outings this year, he had allowed five or more runs six times, and he hadn’t thrown a quality start in his last five games.

As usual, though, the Orioles’ lifeless offense was just what the doctor ordered for Gray.

He dominated the Orioles over six shutout innings, giving up just three hits while racking up eight strikeouts, tying a season high.

“Tonight I thought he was carrying a little bit extra fastball,” Showalter said of Gray. “I thought he had a late life. I thought the shape of his breaking ball was better. Watching some film of him coming in, you could tell that there was kind of a different guy out there tonight. … I think Sonny Gray’s too good a pitcher to stay where he was all year, and I think he made some adjustments.”

Gray has faced the Orioles three times this year, and he’s won all three, accounting for half of his season total. Additionally, all three have been quality starts, while he has only four quality starts against non-Orioles opponents.

Against the Orioles, Gray has a 2.00 ERA this year. Against everyone else, it’s 6.32.

The 2018 Orioles’ offense has made a habit of helping struggling pitchers look good. Gray is just the latest example.

No news on Machado front

Lately, anything the Orioles do on the field has taken a backseat to the rumors swirling off it.

As of Wednesday night, though, Manny Machado is still an Oriole. You may go on with your lives accordingly.

The Yankees are one of the many teams rumored to be interested in Machado, and he put on an impressive show for them in this four-game series. Machado went 5-for-15 with two home runs, three runs scored and three RBIs.

It’s par for the course for Machado, who’s been tearing up the Yankees all season. Entering Wednesday, he was batting .378 with a 1.384 OPS against New York. His six homers against them were his most against any opponent and his 10 RBIs were tied for his most (also versus Tampa Bay).

If nothing else, the Yankees might want to acquire Machado just to stop him from beating up on their pitchers.

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