Mike Trout didn’t crush the Mariners’ victory hopes with yet another home run. The Angels didn’t need his typical MVP heroics for once in a game against the team he dominates more than any in baseball.
And the Mariners’ bullpen — unpredictable, erratic and fairly maligned — didn’t lose the game with a late-inning meltdown because well, it was never really allowed to be in the game. Angels starting pitcher Dylan Bundy made certain of that in impressive fashion.
The veteran right-hander continued the restoration of a pitching career with a complete-game performance, leading the Angels to an easy 6-1 victory in the finale of the three-game series Thursday afternoon at T-Mobile Park.
“Not what we were looking for today,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said during a Zoom video call. “We’ve been competitive in these games, but this got away from us late ’cause we really couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
Bundy improved to 2-1 this season, allowing one run on four hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts. He is just the second pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game this season, and the first Angels pitcher to do it on the road since Jered Weaver on June 19, 2016, at Oakland.
The Mariners’ lone run came in the fourth inning, when Bundy left a change-up over the middle and Daniel Vogelbach hammered it into the right-field seats.
“It always feels good to get a home run,” Vogelbach said on a Zoom call. “It’s my job, hit homers and get on base.”
Otherwise, the Mariners were either hitting weak ground balls or striking out on Bundy’s assortment of off-speed pitches, which he was willing to throw in any count.
Of his 107 pitches, Bundy threw his fastball, which topped out at 91.8 mph and average 89.8 mph, only 39 times, according to MLB Statcast data on baseballsavant.mlb.com. It generated 12 called strikes and seven whiffs. He used his off-speed pitches more, throwing 25 sliders, 25 change-ups and 15 curveballs. Seattle hitters never once swung at the loop curveball, and Bundy got 10 called strikes on the pitch.
“I give Bundy credit,” Servais said. “He got the off-speed pitches working for him with the change-up, the curveball, and we had a hard time making adjustments.”
The Mariners had just four balls put into play with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher, which constitutes a “hard-hit” ball.
Taken with the No. 4 overall pick by the Orioles in the 2011 draft out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma, Bundy was a hard-throwing prospect with a big fastball. Arm troubles sidetracked his progression and changed him into a pitcher instead of a thrower. He can no longer rely on a big, mid-90s fastball. The Mariners knew it but still couldn’t use it against him.
“That’s what he does,” Servais said. “He throws a lot of off-speed, and it’s something we’ve struggled with early in the season. When we’ve got a guy out there that is going to come after us and challenge us, like a lot of young teams, we are up for the challenge.
“It’s when they slow it down and start mixing the speeds, it really becomes a challenge. And that’s where the discipline and being able to make adjustments in game, the experience and being able to do that at the major-league level, is super valuable. Our guys are learning that right now.”
Conversely, the Mariners got an abbreviated start from Taijuan Walker.
Walker worked through the first three innings, allowing the minimal damage of a solo home run to Shohei Ohtani. After being diagnosed with a forearm strain following his outing on the mound Sunday, Ohtani returned from his four-day break and stayed on a 1-0 change-up away, sending it over the wall in left field for a 1-0 Angels lead.
“When I threw it, I thought it was a good pitch, but I went back and looked (at video),” Walker said on a Zoom call. “It was just middle, middle-away from the plate, and he’s still a good hitter. It was a mistake pitch, 1-0. I need to get that down a little bit lower.”
Ohtani’s home run was the only hit and base runner Walker allowed in the first three innings.
“I felt good,” Walker said. “My arm felt good. The first three innings I was attacking the zone, getting ahead and making them put the ball in play.”
That trend changed during a fourth inning, when Walker’s command dissipated. The Angels knew it, changing their approach at the plate. They waited Walker out, taking pitches that weren’t really even borderline and tried to force him into the strike zone with hittable pitches or take a walk. Both happened.
Trout led off the inning with a crisp single to left-center field. Walker followed by issuing walks to Anthony Rendon and Ohtani to load the bases.
Tommy La Stella followed with a single to right to score a run, and Justin Upton was hit by a first-pitch fastball to force in another that made pushed the Angels’ lead to 3-1.
Walker retired the next two batters, getting Brian Goodwin to pop out in foul territory and Max Stassi to hit a deep sac fly to right. But when Walker issued a two-out walk to Luis Rengifo, who doesn’t like to take walks, his outing was done. He threw 69 pitches (40 strikes), including 28 in that fourth inning.
“He just couldn’t get the ball down at all,” Servais said. “I think it’s a little bit of the rustiness in that Taijuan has not pitched a lot in the last couple years. And the days when you don’t feel 100 percent and you kind of get out of whack at that moment, how do know fix it? How to get back on the rails again? And sometimes it’s as simple as, ‘Hey, I got to get this ball down. I got to do it externally and aim lower.’ Other times it’s mechanical, but that was the big issue there in the fourth inning.”
Servais went to rookie Joey Gerber, who needed just one pitch to stop the bleeding, getting David Fletcher to ground into a force-out to end the inning.
The Angels tacked on some insurance runs against the Mariners’ bullpen, which isn’t the first or last time some form of that phrase will be used this season.
Lefty Nestor Cortes served up a two-run homer to Stassi in the eighth inning that made it 6-1. Not that it was needed, considering the Mariners’ at-bats in the game.