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Baltimore Orioles

John Means, Orioles done in by one inning as losing streak reaches 18 with 3-1 defeat to Braves

Sunday marked Orioles ace John Means’ third chance to halt the team’s losing streak as it reached an extended length. Even with a start that followed a similar formula but featured better results, a continually quiet offense did not provide Means enough support to do so.

The Atlanta Braves became the fifth straight team to sweep Baltimore with a 3-1 victory that marked the Orioles’ 18th straight defeat, three shy of the franchise record set with a winless start to the 1988 season. They are the first team with a losing streak this long since the 2005 Kansas City Royals lost 19 consecutive times, a skid that stands between the Orioles’ pair to make up the three longest of the past 45 years.

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“I have no problem with our effort,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I have no problem with how we prepare. We’re just not winning games.”

Hyde, whose team owns the majors’ worst record at 38-85, said before Sunday’s game he felt Means, an All-Star in 2019, was putting too much pressure on himself to end the streak. His previous two starts came with the Orioles’ drought at seven and 12, and in them, he allowed 13 runs (10 earned) in 8 ⅓ innings.

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Like those outings, Means opened Sunday’s with three scoreless innings. He relied largely on his fastball-changeup combo to induce weak contact, with his only hit allowed in that time a softly hit grounder cued down the first-base line.

“I thought today was gonna be the day,” Means said, echoing a comment he made after his previous start.

But the fourth inning remained a bane of Means and the Orioles. With one out, Means left a changeup in the middle of the zone to Jorge Soler, who planted it into the first row of seats beyond the left-field fence for the game’s first run on what Hyde called “kind of a Camden Yards homer.” After a double and walk around a popout, Adam Duvall smacked an elevated fastball just over center fielder Cedric Mullins for a two-run double. Each ball put in play against Means in the fourth was hit harder than any contact made against him through three innings, according to Statcast.

Means said his largest issue in the decisive inning was pitching out of the stretch with runners on.

“It wasn’t great, but definitely a step in the right direction with some aspects,” Means said. “The heater had a little bit more life. Just gotta locate the changeup a little better.”

Means retired the next seven Braves before a walk to open the seventh ended his afternoon. It marked his first time completing six innings in four August starts and the Orioles’ first such outing in two weeks. With the exception of the fourth inning, Means allowed one hit and one walk with five strikeouts in what was otherwise five scoreless frames.

“He gave us every chance to win the game,” Hyde said.

Orioles starting pitcher John Means delivers during the third inning against the Atlanta Braves Sunday in Baltimore. The Orioles lost, 3-1, to drop their 18th straight game.

The quality start was not enough to overcome another meek offensive output, though. The Orioles walked four times, quadrupling their total from their previous four games, and outhit the Braves, but they were unable to string many of them together.

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They doubled three times in a six-batter span between the third and fourth innings, but got only one run out of it when Ramón Urías drove in Trey Mancini in the latter frame. In that inning and the seventh, they brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate with two outs, but Austin Wynns and Ryan Mountcastle struck out to end the respective threats. An Orioles position player was not made available to reporters after the game.

“There was no quit in our guys,” Hyde said. “We’re just not putting enough good at-bats together, major league at-bats. Atlanta’s got a nice pitching staff, good pitching staff, and we just had a tough time getting the big hit.”

The Orioles lost each game in the sweep by three runs or fewer after suffering seven straight losses by at least four runs on their previous road trip. Saturday’s 5-4 defeat marked the first of this streak in which they weren’t beaten by multiple runs.

“I think we’ve been pressing pretty hard, honestly,” Means said. “I think everybody’s been trying to fix everything, and I think we just really need to relax and play the game and have fun again because it has not been a whole lot of fun lately.”

An Orioles bullpen that has struggled for much of the streak and season continued its recent turnaround, with Dillion Tate, Tanner Scott and Jorge López — who was making his 2021 relief debut after being pulled from the rotation — working scoreless innings. Baltimore relievers have allowed one run over their past 14 ⅔ innings.

Urías’ second double, his sixth extra-base hit in the past four games, opened the ninth, but the game ended with him stranded at second as Jorge Mateo, Pedro Severino and Maikel Franco were each retired while representing the tying run.

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“I’ve been pretty frustrated for a while,” Hyde said. “This has been a tough run. Extremely tough.”


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