Fox Sports’s Thursday Baseball Night in America featured your Baltimore Orioles against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the finale of this three-game set. Most of the national audience, I’m sure, tuned in to watch the Dodgers beat up on a 100-loss team.
(Hey, we hit primetime, guys!!!)
Things are different on national cable. First of all, the announcers have no idea who the hell any of the Orioles are. Kenny Albert and A.J. Pierzynski kicked off the broadcast by informing us that Dylan Bundy had “made a couple changes to his repertoire” since he lost his velocity, an observation which, while true, made it clear that their intel on Bundy dates to 2013. (It’s still gratifying, though, to hear all the visiting announcers give props to Camden Yards.)
Another difference: in the third inning, we got a delightful in-game interview with John Means. Apparently, last September, the Orioles called up Means, at the time sitting around at home in Kansas, and asked him if he’d been pitching. Means told them yes, “a bold-faced lie,” and got called up to start at Fenway, where, as he said, he “got rocked.” We also learned that Means’ dad is the best. Not only did he work the graveyard shift at a shipyard so he could take his son to baseball practice, but when it became clear that John wasn’t going to make his high school team, he moved him to a different high school so he could keep playing. The announcers asked Means to guess what pitch Bundy would throw next with a 1-0 count and two outs. “Changeup away,” guessed Means, and magically Bundy delivered that very pitch, drawing a liner to end the inning.
So, about Bundy. With an extra day’s rest, would the velocity be up? Command? Stamina?
Yes, yes, and yes. The fastball was hovering at about 93 mph. The breaking stuff was wicked. In the fifth, Bundy drew three such bad swings out of Kike Hernández that Pierzynski said he felt bad for him. Bundy made it to 103 pitches, and allowed just two earned runs. But it all came to naught in a sloppy, rain-filled sixth.
With the O’s nursing a slim 2-1 lead, outfielder A.J. Pollock doubled off the scoreboard, then scored when Cody Bellinger hit one of those dreaded Bermuda triangle bloop singles that Anthony Santander couldn’t leg out. (If anybody’s out there, maybe up one run with a guy on second, this team could draw the outfield in a bit?) Tie game.
Bundy walked Corey Seager next. Still, Hyde stuck with him. Chris Taylor struck out. Rookie Gavin Lux delivered a terrifying blast to deep left, but it just died at the warning track for Santander to haul in. With the rain coming down hard, Bundy got what should have been an inning-ending groundout from Hernández, but Rio Ruiz booted the ball, loading the bases with two outs. Catcher Russell Martin waved at strike three, but the first-base ump called it a check-swing. It was a bad call. Next pitch, another swing-and-miss. Only this time, Pedro Severino couldn’t corral the ball. It hopped away to the backstop, and Bundy kind of just stood there in disbelief as two Dodgers came around to score. It was a thoroughly anti-climactic way to end the inning and Bundy’s start.
Before that, Bundy had allowed a total of four hits and just one run in the second, on more rather stupid luck. Bellinger got aboard with a ball that rolled under the glove of a suddenly lead-footed Jonathan Villar. He stole second, advanced to third on a groundout, then scored on a Lux weak blooper that dropped in front of Santander (see what I mean?).
The Orioles did little to support Bundy on offense (though in fairness, with this performance, the two runs should have been enough).
They wasted a huge chance in the first. Former Oriole Rich Hill (I did not remember that), fresh off the IL, did not look well. After striking out the first two batters on his big, looping curveball, he suddenly looked gassed, grimacing in pain after every pitch. He walked two batters, hit the next guy for good measure, then walked Austin Hays to bring in a run for the O’s with nary a hit in sight. The ailing Hill was pulled for Adam Kolarek, who got DJ Stewart to ground out, stranding three on base.
More rotten luck in the second: Dodgers righty Yimi Garcia walked Pedro Severino, then Rio Ruiz hit a blazing line drive that second baseman Matt Beaty leapt, snagged, and tossed to first for a 5-3 double play. A fly ball ended the inning.
Reliever Tony Gonsolin—who looks not entirely unlike Dennis Eckersley in his heyday—completely flummoxed the Orioles in the third, striking out the side, and in the fourth, working out of it on seven pitches.
He did not do so in the fifth. On his sixth pitch to Severino, Gonsolin tossed an inside fastball that the Orioles’ catcher walloped into the stands. Said the Fox announcer of Sevvie: “He proved he deserves to be a catcher in the major leagues.” Awww.
If only his glove hadn’t let him—and Bundy—down in the sixth. It was a rare defensive flub for Sevvie. But it came at a devastating time.
There wasn’t much to say about the last three innings, except that both Richard Bleier and Miguel Castro pitched beautifully. And there was this diving catch by Santander in the eighth, probably the best play he’s made all season.
The Orioles let down their starter today. Bundy’s face while sitting in the dugout said it all. Offensive chances were wasted and the defense stunk at key moments. Still, with the W-L record beside the point this season, it was good to see Bundy deliver for his team. If he can continue to command his ruthless breaking stuff this way, Bundy’s spot in Orioles rotations of the future should be guaranteed.