Christmas in July came to Tropicana Field on Sunday afternoon. The only thing the Orioles found in their stocking was a lump of coal. They fell to the Rays by a 5-2 score.
Even a good team like the Orioles is going to be hard-pressed to win every game on the road against a bad, struggling team such as the Rays. They’re not going to win them all.
This knowledge does not make it any easier to watch any given loss, full of blown chances and missed opportunities, knowing if things had been just a little different, they might have won instead.
The Dylan Bundy Start
It did finally happen. Dylan Bundy started a game at the MLB level, more than three full years after his MLB debut. Though you may have kept your expectations low - after all, it was unlikely he’d go beyond 75 pitches and five innings, if he was lucky - Bundy probably still did not meet even those low expectations.
Let’s start with the final tally first. Bundy was lifted after 3.1 innings pitched, having given up five hits and three walks with 70 pitches thrown. Bundy surrendered four runs, all earned, all four of which scored across three home runs.
A generous person might say that if you take out the home runs, his start would look a lot better. After all, the Rays, bad of a team as they may be, have still been pretty good at hitting home runs, so yes, it’s a disappointing outcome, if maybe one with something of an explanation for it.
What’s more, the most damaging of those home runs - a two-run shot by Oswaldo Arcia in the second inning - was really, really cheap. You can look at the pitch chart and see for yourself. Pitch #6, the home run pitch, is about half a foot outside. For the most part, if you are a pitcher and you get a left-handed batter to swing at that pitch, you win.
Except in this case Arcia swung, barely made contact, and the ball just kept flying out to left field until it barely cleared the painted yellow line at the top of the fence. To some extent, Arcia used Bundy’s velocity - 98 - against him there. The harder the ball comes in, the harder it might potentially go out. But mostly he got lucky, and the Rays went on top for good. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
There will be a strong temptation to make this one Bundy start a referendum on the entire concept. Was it a good idea to do this? Surely the Orioles might have hoped for more than 3.1 innings, but one imagines this is not the top rung on the ladder for Bundy, either.
For Bundy, who had yet to throw more than 57 pitches in any of his relief appearances, the tank seemed to run out once he crossed about 60 pitches. He walked the final two batters he faced, including Arcia on four pitches, as well as .169 hitter Curt Casali. Bundy walked Casali twice, for crying out loud. Bundy was hitting 94 against his final batter.
Will he make the next start on this rotation turn? Should he? Those questions remain open.
When you can’t buy a hit with RISP
That the Orioles could have gotten a better outing from their starter is not in doubt, but Bundy is hardly the sole reason they lost. You’re not going to win many games in which you only score two runs. The O’s pulled off this trick on Saturday but were not up to duplicating it on Sunday.
There were numerous potential promising scoring chances all throughout the game, starting in the very first inning, when Adam Jones led off with a single and Jonathan Schoop added a double to set up two men in scoring position with nobody out. Sounds pretty good, except all they got out of this was a run on a Manny Machado sacrifice fly.
Chris Davis practically stranded an army on base all by himself. He had three chances with a runner in scoring position and failed to capitalize on any of them. Davis has failed to capitalize on much of anything in July; he’s now batting .196 for the month. It’s an even more grim picture for Machado, who’s hitting .176 this month.
The Orioles are now 6-6 in July, which isn’t so bad when you consider what their 3-4 hitters have done on the month, right? Those guys will get hot again, eventually. For now, the team’s riding out their dual slump as best they can. The Orioles came away from the Trop with a series win, after all. That’s always a good thing.
One bright spot in the game was the major league debut of lefty reliever Donnie Hart, who appears to be getting an audition as a potential internal answer for the role of lefty specialist.
Hart’s entire family was in the stands and the MASN cameras kept focusing on them and they were basically the most adorable family to ever show up to cheer on their loved one. I never get enough of that stuff.
It was surely worth the trip. They got to see Hart retire two lefties on six pitches, including a looking strikeout on a nice off-speed pitch. When righty Brandon Guyer pinch hit for Arcia, manager Buck Showalter brought in Odrisamer Despaigne. Hart is in the MLB annals and he’s perfect so far. That has to feel good.
Next up is a four-game swing through New York, where the Yankees are also muddling through some tough times. The O’s need to find a way to split, at a minimum. The Monday series opener is set to get underway at the standard civilized baseball time of 7:05. Kevin Gausman and Ivan Nova are the currently scheduled starting pitchers.