Dylan Bundy couldn’t keep pitching quality starts forever. He stumbled for the first time all season on Thursday afternoon in Detroit, with the Tigers lineup rocking him for six runs in six innings. That was enough for the Tigers to win, 6-5, capping a 1-6 road trip in suitably agonizing fashion.
Nearly all of the damage against Bundy was dealt in two swings by people named Martinez. Detroit’s right fielder, J.D. Martinez, got Bundy with two men on base in the third inning. Designated hitter Victor Martinez struck with one man on base in the fifth inning, staking the Tigers to what was then a 5-4 lead that they did not relinquish the rest of the way.
It was a day for hitting home runs. The wind was substantial, measured at 21mph as the game began, and appeared to affect fly balls for much of the game. The Orioles took advantage of this environment had three home runs of their own.
When O’s homers just aren’t enough
Chris Davis took Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann deep in the first inning of the game, giving the O’s an early 2-0 lead that would be erased by the first Martinez home run. This was the ninth homer of the year for Davis. Amid a bunch of brutal losses, if Davis is able to keep hitting as he’s done lately, that will be a good sign for this year’s team going forward.
In the fifth inning, Adam Jones broke what was then a 3-3 tie with a solo home run that just barely scraped over the fence in left field. It still counted - the sixth of the year. Still later, in the seventh, Seth Smith added another solo home run, his fourth dinger of the year, turning a 6-4 deficit into a 6-5 deficit.
Smith’s home run was something of a remarkable one in that, before hitting it, he had fouled a ball off of his face. MASN cameras showed Smith in the outfield later appearing to test his vision and manager Buck Showalter said following the game that, had Smith’s spot come up in the ninth inning, he would have been pinch hit for due to blurry vision. Hopefully he’ll be OK soon.
After the Smith home run, the Orioles did not have another runner reach base for the entire game. Even with the Smith home run, 13 of their final 14 batters were retired to close out the game.
Still, it wasn’t really the offense’s fault that the game was lost. Most times you score five runs, you should win. They did their job against struggling starter Jordan Zimmermann, who ended up giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings. With how Bundy had been pitching up to this point, that should have been more than enough. Today wasn’t his day.
There have been games this year where the Orioles have been negatively impacted by Showalter trying to push his starting pitchers too far. This was not one of those games. Bundy made it six innings and it wasn’t like he fell apart at the end due to being tired. He just made a couple of bad pitches at the wrong times earlier in his outing and the Martinez tandem made him pay for it.
A bad start isn’t the end of the world (yet)
Even good starters are going to have a bad day sometimes. After his tough day today, Bundy is sitting on a 2.97 ERA for the season, which is still pretty good. As fellow Orioles blogger Ryan Blake remarked on Twitter, Bundy’s rotation-mate, Kevin Gausman, would have to throw 58.2 scoreless innings to get down to a 2.97 ERA. That’s more depressing than I expected.
This particular bad outing just came at an inopportune time for the Orioles, who sure seem to be reeling right now. Starting pitchers aren’t pitching very well. The Zach Britton-less bullpen is a motley crew of tired arms where even the big names are having hard times holding a lead. It is not easy to be winning games under those circumstances, so little surprise that the Orioles largely aren’t.
Speaking of the beleaguered bullpen, recent call-up Miguel Castro allowed all the other arms to rest for the day, pitching the seventh and eighth innings without allowing any runs to cross the plate. He did make you sweat a bit, if you were watching, with three walks in two innings.
All of that angst aside, the Orioles, at this moment, still have a .590 winning percentage, which would end up getting them to 95 or 96 wins at season’s end - an easy win of the division in most years.
Sure, they don’t look much like a .590 team right now, and it’s concerning they’re losing ground to the Yankees, now two games back, but sometimes, a bad road trip is a bad road trip. Now, if they keep looking like garbage as they come back to face the last place Blue Jays in Baltimore and beyond, we’re going to have to start having different conversations about the rest of the season.
Manny Machado did not play in this game due to a sore right index finger. MASN’s Roch Kubatko said Machado suffered the discomfort while fouling off a couple of pitches in Wednesday’s game. His substitute, Ryan Flaherty, whiffed on one play that Machado usually makes - and this extra baserunner scored on the very next play on the first of the Martinez home runs.
According to Showalter after the game, Machado’s status for Friday isn’t certain yet.
After heading back into town, the O’s will face off against those Jays on Friday night at the standard civilized baseball time of 7:05. Chris Tillman will take the mound for the O’s, with hopefully all of the offseason rust shaken off, opposed by the best Jays starter on the season, Aaron Sanchez.