ANAHEIM — It wasn’t always pretty and he was removed after having thrown just 72 pitches, but right-hander Dylan Bundy finally earned his first win of the season in his 11th start on Monday against the Royals.
Bundy went 5 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits, in an 8-3 win in the series opener at Angel Stadium. It helped him lower his ERA to 6.16, while he picked up his first victory since Sept. 21, 2020.
“It was a step in the right direction,” Bundy said. “My goal is to go out every time and give my team a chance to win. That’s all I really care about.”
He was helped out by a home run-robbing catch from Kean Wong in the first, and the Angels put up four runs in the bottom half, but Bundy promptly gave back two runs in the second. He gave up a two-out solo homer to Jorge Soler and an RBI double to Hunter Dozier after hitting Michael Taylor with a pitch. Homers have been an issue for Bundy, who gave up three in his last start to the Giants and 13 on the year.
The Angels also started to get long reliever José Suarez loose in the second, which Bundy used as motivation to escape the jam and get his outing on track.
“It pisses you off any time you see a guy getting loose in the second inning,” Bundy said. “Any time a guy reaches base and scores, it doesn’t make you feel good. All you can do is try to push and get better.”
Bundy did get better and was able to settle down from there with three consecutive 1-2-3 frames. But after giving up a two-out single in the sixth to put two runners in, Angels manager Joe Maddon opted to bring in reliever Chris Rodriguez. Bundy was noticeably unhappy with the decision, but Rodriguez got Kelvin Gutierrez to ground out to end the inning.
“It looked like the ship was righted but when they got two guys on, I didn’t want to take any more — and the right word isn’t chances — but they just had some good swings on him,” Maddon said. “And I knew Chris was fresh and he could put the ball on the ground and they did. But I just thought Dylan got better game-in-progress and it is a great game to build off of.”
Bundy didn’t have his best stuff — he only struck out two and registered eight swings and misses — but it was still an encouraging showing, considering he had a 9.70 ERA in five starts in May after posting a 4.20 ERA in five starts in April.
He matched his total of 11 starts in 2020, but the results have been much different. Bundy went 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA and 72 strikeouts, 17 walks and five homers allowed in 65 2/3 innings last year, but he’s 1-6 with 55 strikeouts, 15 walks and 13 home runs given up in 57 innings this season.
But Maddon thinks Bundy’s stuff is getting better and now it’s about harnessing it going forward. He’s had a tendency to leave too many pitches over the heart of the plate this season and it’s another reason why Maddon pulled him early.
“I saw a better curveball, a better changeup and the fastball got better in-game,” Maddon said. “I just didn’t want to all of a sudden give up a three-run home run and shrink the lead where you really have to stress out your bullpen. I just wanted to be proactive there. But again, he did not lose his composure or his confidence and he kept getting better. I believe the latter part of the game is the Dylan Bundy we’re used to and one we can expect to see in the future.”
Angels catcher Max Stassi, who led the offense by going 3-for-4 with a homer, a double and three RBIs, believed Bundy looked more like the pitcher he was in 2020 on Monday and that he can build on his outing. Stassi said part of the plan was throwing more changeups as his outing went along against Kansas City.
“I thought he was outstanding,” Stassi said. “He was the same old guy that we’re used to. Everyone kind of goes through things throughout the course of the season. Nobody’s perfect. He works his tail off in between starts and he wants to give us the best chance to succeed. So, I’m extremely happy for him here going forward. H’s one of our guys and we’re counting on him big time.”