ANAHEIM -- After having a breakout season in his first year with the Angels in 2020 after being acquired in a trade with the Orioles, right-hander Dylan Bundy has shown no signs of slowing down early in '21.
Bundy excelled in his second start of the season, striking out 10 over six solid frames in a 4-2 loss to the Astros on Tuesday afternoon at Angel Stadium. Bundy doesn't have a decision through his first two starts, but has posted a 3.75 ERA with 16 strikeouts compared to three walks in 12 innings. It was the ninth time Bundy had struck out at least 10 batters in a game in his career and his fourth time with the Angels after reaching that mark three times last year.
"He pitches like an ace," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the best I can describe it. This guy pitches like he knows what he's doing. His stuff is better than he's been given credit for and he definitely has the mentality."
Bundy has been doing it with improved velocity, as his fastball averaged 92.9 mph in his outing against the Astros after it averaged 90 mph last season, per Statcast. And most impressively, Bundy uncorked a 95.1 mph fastball on his 102nd and final pitch of the afternoon for both a critical strikeout of Kyle Tucker with two runners in scoring position and his hardest-thrown fastball tracked by Statcast since 2017.
“The fastball has been feeling really good,” Bundy said. “The slider was also good today, the curveball not so much and the changeup was OK. But I was really happy with the outing and the way I competed."
He had it going from the start, striking out three in the first inning and pitching around a play that saw both third baseman José Rojas and shortstop José Iglesias get charged with errors. But he was hurt by a pair of homers in the second, surrendering back-to-back shots to Tucker and Aledmys Díaz to tie the game after Mike Trout crushed a two-run homer off Zack Greinke in the first that went a projected 464 feet to left field.
"I felt like I basically left two sliders in a spot where they could easily hit them," Bundy said. "They made me pay for it with those two homers."
Bundy cruised from there, relying on his fastball more and getting helped by an inning-ending double play in the fifth, but ran into some trouble in his sixth and final inning. With one out, Alex Bregman dropped in a bloop single down the right-field line before Yordan Álvarez accidentally beat the shift with a slow roller down the third-base line that gave the Astros two runners in scoring position with one out.
Bundy, though, escaped the jam by getting Carlos Correa to pop up to second base and striking out Tucker looking on that 95.1 mph fastball that had Maddon impressed.
"I didn't want to take him out," Maddon said. "He made some adjustments when it looked like they were sitting on breaking balls and you saw more fastballs. It was a very convicted fastball. I knew it was hot but I didn’t know it was that hot."
Bundy threw 43 four-seamers on the afternoon and 21 of them were either called strikes (15) or swings and misses (six).
His best pitch remains his slider, and Bundy threw it 25 times and got five whiffs on it. He's also starting to utilize his curveball and changeup a bit more this season, but they both remain a work in progress, he said. Bundy got a combined 11 called strikes and nine swings and misses on his 49 offspeed pitches in Tuesday’s loss.
He kept the Angels in the game with his performance, but closer Raisel Iglesias gave up a go-ahead, two-run homer to Correa in the ninth on an 0-2 fastball over the middle. Iglesias started his season with a scoreless inning and a save on Opening Day but has allowed five runs over three innings in his last three outings for a 9.00 ERA on the year. Maddon, though, said he’ll keep going to Iglesias in key moments.
"His stuff is fine," Maddon said. "I think he actually looks pretty good, so we just have to stay with him and work through it. It's probably, more than anything, pitch execution. But I think the stuff is really good."