Angels right-hander Dylan Bundy made one mistake.
The pitch, a 91.1-mph four-seam fastball up in the strike zone to Seattle first baseman José Marmolejos, proved to be the difference in the Halos' 8-5 loss to the Mariners at Angel Stadium on Thursday night.
The ball ended up in the empty right-field stands. Marmolejos’ three-run home run with two outs in the first inning gave the Mariners an early 3-0 lead. The next hitter, Shed Long Jr., followed with a double. Bundy responded by retiring the next nine batters in a row and 10 out of the next 11.
It just wasn’t enough. The long ball had once again stung Bundy. The right-hander allowed 29 home runs last season with the Orioles, and the first homer he gave up this season was costly -- and familiar. Bundy’s 71 home runs allowed since the start of 2018 are the most in the Majors. Thirty-eight of those have come on four-seam fastballs, primarily thrown in the upper half of the strike zone or near the middle of the plate.
“It wasn’t a bad [pitch],” Bundy said. “You hit your spot, and the guy guessed right so he was able to get to the heater and put three runs on the board pretty quickly. It was a battle from then on out.”
Bundy loves his fastball. He threw it 42 percent of the time last season. The trouble is, some hitters love to see it. Bundy's average four-seamer velocity since 2018 is 91.4 mph. His fastball averaged 90.3 mph Thursday. But he was effective against the Mariners by using a steady mix of sliders, changeups and curveballs.
“[Bundy] is a winner, and he’s always been a winner, just outstanding,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “The numbers are not pedestrian, either. He gets in the low-90s range with some ride on the ball. But it’s the above-average secondary stuff that really promotes and causes the fastball to play up.”
Bundy’s batterymate, catcher Max Stassi, cut the Mariners' lead to 3-2 with a two-run home run off the right-field foul pole with two outs in the fifth. Those were the only runs the Halos scored against Seattle starter Marco Gonzales, and it was set up by a two-out error by Long that allowed Taylor Ward to reach base.
“That was a bomb,” Maddon said of Stassi's homer. “It hit off the screen, not just the pole, and that’s not easy to do oppo.”
As for Bundy, he retired the side in order in his sixth and final inning. He finished with three runs allowed on four hits, two walks and eight strikeouts. Through two outings in his first season with the Halos, he's allowed four runs in 12 2/3 innings.
“[Bundy] was drenched by the time we took him out, but he pitched great,” Maddon said. “One pitch and one three-run homer, but otherwise, he was outstanding. He had command of everything and good secondary pitches for strikes.”
After Seattle rallied for five runs in the top of the ninth, Shohei Ohtani hit his second home run of the season in the bottom half of the inning, a three-run blast that came with one out and cut the Mariners' lead to 8-5. However, Albert Pujols lined out and Ward grounded out to end the contest as the Angels lost for the fifth time in seven games to open the season.