The Orioles were the worst team in baseball when they selected Manny Machado with the third overall pick of the 2010 draft.
They were stuck in last place in the American League East a year later when they took Dylan Bundy fourth overall.
Both have experienced their trials — Bundy more so than Machado, of course — but it was gratifying to see the pair shine together in Sunday’s 10-2 win over the Chicago White Sox. It’s what Orioles fans only dreamed about five years ago, but the 23-year-old pitcher has finally joined the three-time All-Star third baseman in the major league spotlight.
Machado has provided plenty of highlights in his young career, but he became the first major leaguer to hit a home run in each of the first three innings of a game since Carl Reynolds in 1930. His seven RBIs were a career high and the highest single-game total from an Oriole since Nelson Cruz in 2014.
More importantly for the Orioles, it capped off a reawakening of the 24-year-old’s bat this weekend as he had hit .209 with a .621 on-base plus slugging percentage since the start of July before turning in a three-hit performance on Friday night. Much focus has fallen on the struggles of first baseman Chris Davis in recent weeks, but Machado is Baltimore’s best player and needs to play at a high level over the final eight weeks in the push for the division title.
Of course, Machado was most responsible for the breathing room afforded to Bundy on Sunday, but the young right-hander responded exactly as manager Buck Showalter wanted to see. Throwing a career-high 92 pitches, Bundy completed six strong innings and allowed just two runs while registering a career-high nine strikeouts in his fifth major league start.
His 14 swinging strikes were a career high as Bundy set the tone for the outing in the first inning with three swinging strikeouts — one each with his fastball, changeup, and curveball. He arguably had his best curve we’d seen all season — striking out three more with it — but the most encouraging part of his outing was seeing see him finish off Justin Morneau with a 95 mph fastball for a strikeout to end the sixth.
Everyone will continue crossing their fingers as hard as they can regarding his health, but Bundy only appears to be getting stronger in a starter role. His season strikeout rate is now 9.0 per nine innings after so much discussion centered around his inability to miss bats early in the year.
While Machado has been an established star for a couple years ago, Bundy has pitched a lot like one for over two months now, posting a 2.28 ERA over his last 47 1/3 innings dating back to May 27. It’s sure been fun watching him play catch-up after three injury-riddled seasons that threatened to derail his development.
Winning just their ninth road series of the season was more important to the Orioles than how the details played out on Sunday, but there was something special about seeing both Machado and Bundy shine together in the midst of a pennant race.
It was a reminder of how far the Orioles have come since the two were drafted a year apart.