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John Means flirts with no-hitter, but Royals wake up and send Orioles to eighth straight loss, 5-4

Left-hander John Means could not have seen that coming.

The Orioles’ All-Star rookie was attempting to snap out of a three-game losing streak and looked like he was going to do it grand style, carrying a no-hit bid into the sixth inning against a Kansas City Royals team that has struggled almost as much as the Orioles this season.

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But the no-hit bid would end right there, wilting under a hail of base hits that sent him packing before he could record another out, the Royals erupting like so many other opponents in the late innings on the way to a 5-4 victory before an announced crowd of 11,659 at Camden Yards.

Means (8-9) didn’t need that, not after failing to get out of the fourth inning three straight times, allowing 13 earned runs over 10 2/3 innings during those games and falling back to .500 for the first time since early May. What he needed was some early run support, but was clinging to a precarious 1-0 lead when it all began to unravel.

“We’ve been working on a lot of stuff in between outings and trying to figure out what works best for me,” Means said. "I thought the first five innings I was doing exactly what I was working on and my pitches were doing what they were supposed to. I was locating like I was supposed to and then in the sixth, I was starting to trend back to what I was doing wrong.

“It’s just a little mechanical adjustment I’m looking forward to making in my next outing.”

It was an unlikely pitching duel to begin with. Royals right-hander Jorge López was also trying to figure things out after bouncing back and forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen and failing to win in any of his 11 previous starts.

He allowed just a pair of hits over five innings, including a long RBI double by DJ Stewart, and left the game at that point trailing by that run. But six straight Royals hitters reached base in the top of the sixth and set him up to get the victory while sending Means to his his ninth loss of the season.

“He was throwing the ball well, and he was throwing the ball well in the sixth, too,” manager Brandon Hyde said of López. “Couple of well-placed singles and an error in the middle that really hurt. Unfortunately, he was throwing the ball great and things kind of unraveled for us in the sixth inning.”

Second baseman Nicky Lopez led off with a solid single to left to end the no-hit bid and catcher Nick Dini bounced into what seemed destined to be a force play at second base until a flip throw by shortstop Jonathan Villar glanced off the glove of Hanser Alberto for an error. Means allowed singles to the next three batters and left with the Orioles trailing by two runs.

What started out as a fairy tale first half that sent him to the All-Star Game has devolved into a difficult stretch during which Means has lost five of his past six games after going nearly two months between losses.

“It’s one of those things that if my pitches were doing and I was locating where I wanted to, I could have gotten through it,” he said. “It’s one of those things I thought I did a really good job the first half of the year. I was good at limiting the runner from scoring and I just haven’t been able to do that.”

The Orioles came right back to get within a run when Villar greeted Royals reliever Jake Newberry with a leadoff homer in the sixth, but Lopez and Dini hit back-to-back home runs in the seventh to extend the Kansas City lead.

The two homers allowed by the Orioles brought them to the brink of tying the major league record for homers allowed during the season. The next loud sound you hear will be No. 258, tying the 2016 Cincinnati Reds for single-season home run futility.

The two solo shots also insulated the Royals when the Orioles tried to stage a rally in the bottom of the seventh. Alberto led off the inning with a double and scored on Stewart’s second run-scoring hit of the game. The O’s went on to load the bases with two outs, but Anthony Santander flied out to left field to end the threat.

Rio Ruiz added a solo home run with two outs in the ninth inning to cut the deficit to one. Villar singled to bring Trey Mancini to the plate representing the winning run, but he flied out to center field to end the game.

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