Blue Jays look to split series with Orioles

TORONTO — After facing one another in their first starts of the 2017 season, Baltimore Orioles right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy (1-1) and Toronto Blue Jays left-handed pitcher J.A. Happ (2-0) will take to the mound Sunday at the Rogers Centre.

It will be the finale of the four-game series, which saw the Orioles win the first two games and lose the third when the Jays won 2-1 on Saturday with a walkoff home run by designated hitter Kendrys Morales. The Orioles (7-3) will be looking to remain in first place with a win.

The 2-9 Jays, off to the worst start in the franchise’s 40-year history, will hope to start a win streak.

In the first matchup between Bundy and Happ on April 5 in Baltimore, the Orioles’ young pitcher won the game 3-1. He pitched seven innings and was charged with only one earned run. In the 99 pitches he threw, he had 69 strikes.

Happ logged also seven innings in the game, but was charged with three earned runs, two of them homers. Happ has given up four homers this season. He surrendered 22 last season, in which he had a record of 20-4 and was in contention for the Cy Young Award in the American League. He finished sixth overall in the voting that saw Boston’s Rick Porcello win.

Bundy has pitched 13 1/3 innings this season and has a 2.70 earned-run average. He has 11 strikeouts and only two walks. He recorded a loss in his last start, 4-2 on April 11 against Boston. Bundy threw 106 pitches, the highest so far of his career in the majors. The 24-year-old had a record of 10-6 and a 4.02 ERA last year in 36 games.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter had plenty of praise for Bundy after his first start. In his postgame comments, he said: “There was a little bit of potential for an ambush factor early in the game, but he kept them as much as he could off balance and they had to honor all his pitches. When you give them three different looks and they have to honor three different pitches — real four tonight — you like your chances.”

Orioles’ great Jim Palmer praised Bundy off that win. In talking with The Bat Around with Stan (The Fan) Charles on April 8, Palmer said: “I looked at Dylan and said, ‘I don’t know if you can get a lot better,'” Palmer said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, I can; I can pitch nine innings.’ So that’s the kind of mentality he has, and it’s good to see.”

Happ suffered his second consecutive defeat of the season on April 11 at home against the Milwaukee Brewers. He has 17 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings this season and has yet to issue a walk. Happ is in his second tour of duty with the Jays, and last season was a gem for him.

Jays president Mark Shapiro has confidence in Happ.

“He’s a 20-game winner, incredible competitor and worker, but you can say that no matter who is starting for us any day in our five-man rotation,” Shapiro said. “J.A. is certainly one of the guys you feel great about when he takes the mound.”

Shapiro said he had no real concerns about Happ and the fact he has served up so many homers early in the season.

“He’s got (good control),” Shapiro said. “Guys that work as hard as he works and have that kind of control are what you look for.”