Orioles ace John Means left Saturday’s 10-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians five batters into the game with what the team said was left-shoulder fatigue.
Means said after the game, a defeat that snapped Baltimore’s three-game winning, that the injury is in his deltoid muscle and is something he has had to manage throughout each of his three seasons in the majors. Neither Means nor manager Brandon Hyde knew whether Means would make his next start, with Hyde saying Means will undergo an MRI on Sunday morning.
“It’s not major. It’s nothing serious,” Means said. “It’s more annoying than anything.”
Means, who took the mound among the American League leaders in several categories, surrendered home runs to two of the first four batters he faced, the fourth straight outing he has allowed multiple homers.
After Eddie Rosario followed with a single on Means’ 29th pitch of the first inning, pitching coach Chris Holt visited Means on the mound, and Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel came soon after. A brief discussion preceded Means walking off the field with Ebel.
Means said the injury is typically felt on his extension when he throws his changeup. Means has three prior injured-list stints in his career, all for arm and shoulder injuries.
“I didn’t feel it at all in the bullpen,” Means said. “This is something I’ve been battling the last few weeks, not really during the games but after games. I felt it more so in warmups when I was out there last couple pitches when I really started to let it eat. I felt it kind of yank, and then every pitch after that, I felt it at the end of extension.
“Honestly, it’s the same thing that I’ve had pretty much every year that I’ve been up.”
Hyde said he sent out Holt simply because it was a long inning for Means and he wanted to give him a breather. He had no suspicion of an injury. Means’ velocity, according to MLB’s Statcast data, was in the range of a typical start.
“When they called me and Brian out there, your heart stops for a second,” Hyde said. “You never want to see a player get hurt, obviously, and I felt bad for John. I thought for a couple pitches before that there was a little lack of finish in his pitches. His velo was good, but felt bad for him.”
Means had pitched at least five innings in 10 of his 11 starts, including a May 5 no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners in which he threw a career-high 113 pitches. Saturday’s outing marked the third time in five outings since that he was pitching on more than the traditional four days rest between starts, having most recently pitched the prior Saturday.
Entering play Saturday, the 28-year-old left-hander led the AL in WHIP and ranked second in ERA, third in batting average against and seventh in innings.
At two-thirds of an inning, Saturday’s start tied for the shortest of Means’ career. His third outing of 2020 was as brief, coming in his first appearance after rejoining the team following the death of his father, Alan. Means began that season on the injured list, missing his scheduled Opening Day start with what the team classified as arm fatigue.
Amid his All-Star rookie season in 2019, Means had two brief stints on the injured list, with each requiring him to miss only a couple of starts. The first was a left-shoulder strain, and he returned to allow two earned runs in 12 innings to close out his first half. As he struggled in his first starts after the break, the Orioles put him on the IL with a left biceps strain. He faltered in his first two starts back then worked at least five innings eight straight times, pitching into the seventh in five of those starts.
Tasked with covering 8 1/3 innings after Means’ exit, the Orioles’ bullpen allowed eight runs, though only three were earned. Before the game, Hyde noted that he can manage his bullpen somewhat differently when he knows Means will be on the mound the next day.
“I don’t want to jinx it,” Hyde said then, “but you figure he’s going to go pretty deep into the game.”
Muscle from Mullins and Mountcastle
The Orioles were dealt an early blow with Means’ injury but used some blasts of their own to try to make up for it.
After a trifecta of first-inning singles from Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini and Freddy Galvis plated a run, Mullins added Baltimore’s next two with solo shots in the third and fifth. Having never recorded a multi-homer game before 2021, Mullins has two of the Orioles’ four this season. He added two more singles for his second five-hit day of the year. Not only did Mullins become the first Oriole since Tommy Davis in 1974 with multiple five-hit games in a season, but he also joined franchise icons Cal Ripken Jr. and Brooks Robinson in going at least 5-for-5 with two or more home runs.
For good measure, Mullins continued his standout defensive play in center field with a diving catch in the fourth.
“Incredible game by him today,” Hyde said. “Just did everything.”
In the sixth, Ryan Mountcastle continued his power binge by homering for a third straight game. Projected at 477 feet by Statcast, it was the longest Orioles home run this year and made Mountcastle the franchise’s first rookie with five home runs in an 11-game span.
The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth but failed to score, with the bottom four hitters in their order combining to go 0-for-16.
Former Indian Adam Plutko replaced Means and retired the first five batters he faced. But an error by second baseman Stevie Wilkerson was followed by four hits among five batters, concluding with Yu Chang’s first home run of 2021, a three-run shot that put Baltimore down 7-1.
Travis Lakins Sr., César Valdez and Dillon Tate each allowed a run in their respective multi-inning outings.
Sunday, 1:05 p.m.
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