The Orioles were stinging from two lopsided loss to the Los Angeles Angels when the rain finally relented Sunday and both teams took the field for the final game of the weekend series at Camden Yards.
The nearly three-hour delay and the unseasonable chill didn’t figure to make this day any more pleasant than the previous two nights, but left-hander John Means chased the clouds away — at least figuratively — with a strong six-inning performance, and the Orioles hammered out a 5-1 victory before an announced Mother’s Day crowd of 16,387.
Orioles pitchers had been victimized by two-time Most Valuable Player Mike Trout on Friday night and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Albert Pujols on Saturday, but the O’s swung back with four home runs in an offensive performance that featured contributions from the top of the lineup to the bottom.
Chris Davis returned to the cleanup spot for the first time since last Aug. 27 and was quick to celebrate with a home run off rookie starting pitcher Griffin Canning in the second inning. It was Davis’s fifth homer of the year and second of the series.
Rookie Stevie Wilkerson also hit a solo homer in the second inning to give Means a two-run lead before he had surrendered his first hit, which came just minutes later when Trout hit a towering home run to center field to lead off the third.
This time, however, the Orioles flipped the script from the first two games, during which the Orioles answered early home runs in kind before watching the Angels pull away.
It would be the Orioles pulling away to help assure Means of his fifth victory.
Dwight Smith Jr. gave him some room to breathe with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third and Pedro Severino launched a two-out solo shot in the sixth. It was Smith’s eighth homer of the year and increased his team-leading RBI total to 27. It was the fifth for Severino, who seems determined to prove he is not a defense-only catcher.
Means was coming off the best performance of his brief major league career. He pitched seven innings and allowed just a run on three hits against the Boston Red Sox last Monday. He gave up a run on four hits over six innings this time, dropping his ERA to 2.33 — by far the best in the Orioles starting rotation.
But he said he wasn’t pleased with his fastball command, which might explain why he ran up his pitch count early and threw a career-high 110.
“I feel good about it, but I definitely wasn’t on, that’s for sure,” he said. “I didn’t feel great and I didn’t feel my fastball command was there. I feel I was lucky that I could throw my changeup and slider for strikes and that really helped me.”
Means has recorded a victory in three of his past four starts and four of his past five appearances. Means and right-hander Andrew Cashner (4-1) have accounted for nine of the Orioles’ 14 victories.
Everybody in the Orioles clubhouse has been impressed with the way Means has come almost out of nowhere to establish himself in the major leagues.
“You can’t say enough about how well John’s throwing the ball this year,” Davis said. “He’s been huge for us. I’m just proud to see the way he’s handled it and the way he has gone about his business.”
The bullpen also held the Angels very much in check. Left-hander Paul Fry and right-hander Shawn Armstrong each threw hitless innings before closer Mychal Givens threw a perfect ninth in a non-save situation, which certainly put a smile on the face of manager Brandon Hyde.
“That was how you draw it up,” Hyde said. “All three of those guys did a great job. I was really happy with John giving us some length that we need and all three guys throwing clean innings, allowing other guys to have success.”
The Orioles finished the homestand with a 3-5 record after splitting two games of a rain-shortened series against the Tampa Bay Rays and losing two of three to the Red Sox. They open a seven-game road trip on Monday night with the first of three games against the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
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“I think we ended the [Angels] series well,’’ Hyde said. “We didn’t play well the first two games, so I thought today was a good day.”