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No-hitter makes John Means first Orioles pitcher to earn AL Player of the Week honors since 1994

It turns out John Means ended another long drought.

Means’ no-hitter last week against the Seattle Mariners marked the Orioles’ first since 1991 and their first by a single pitcher since Jim Palmer in 1969. It also earned Means American League Player of the Week honors, Major League Baseball announced Monday. He’s the first Baltimore pitcher to earn that recognition since Arthur Rhodes in August 1994.

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Unlike Rhodes, who threw shutouts in consecutive starts to end his 1994 season, Means got only one outing in his award-winning week, but it was a good one. He struck out 12 Mariners and walked none in his first career complete game, throwing a first-pitch strike to all but one of the 27 batters he faced. All that separated him from a perfect game was Sam Haggerty reaching on a dropped third strike in the third inning, and it marks the only no-hitter in major league history in which the only base runner reached in that manner.

Means said the outing hasn’t truly set in yet and probably won’t until the offseason. He hasn’t watched the performance back yet, focusing instead on preparing for his next start Tuesday against the New York Mets.

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“I just try to have a good start every five days,” Means said. “I don’t really look at it as some big milestone and that was the peak of my mountain. I just try to stay as even-keeled as possible. I just want to go out there and have another quality start and give my team a chance to win.”

The Orioles recognized Means with an on-field ceremony before Saturday’s game against the Boston Red Sox. He received a framed jersey, the lineup card from that game and clippings of The Baltimore Sun’s coverage of the no-hitter, while a congratulatory video from Palmer played at Camden Yards. Manager Brandon Hyde also gave him a watch from the team, and the Orioles Charitable Foundation donated $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Baltimore on Means’ behalf.

“Palmer’s video before was pretty special,” Means said. “A guy that’s had as many accolades as he has had and be the last one to throw a no-hitter, and for him to send me that video, it’s pretty cool.”

Means, 28, is the first Oriole overall to be named AL Player of the Week since Trey Mancini in September 2019. On the National League side, Cincinnati Reds and former Orioles left-hander Wade Miley was named Player of the Week after he no-hit the Cleveland Indians on Friday. There have been four no-hitters already in the 2021 season, not including Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning feat that came as part of a doubleheader.

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Means is scheduled to follow up his no-hitter Tuesday at Citi Field, the same ballpark he began the 11-start streak of dominance he’s on. Only twice in that span has Means allowed more than one run, and he leads all qualified starters in WHIP and batting average against in that window, while ranking second in ERA.

Hyde said not only Means’ background — a non-prospect who has blossomed into an All-Star and potential ace — but also how he pitches can serve as an inspiration to Baltimore’s collection of young starters. After the Orioles optioned left-hander Zac Lowther on Monday, Hyde spoke with him and told him to follow Means’ example, he said.

“The ability to locate your fastball to both sides of the plate, the ability to throw your fastball in and in off to right-handed hitters in this division, especially being a left-handed pitcher, is gonna be key,” Hyde said. “I like Zac’s offspeed stuff. Meansy’s got the changeup. Now he’s added a couple more weapons, with two different breaking balls with the ability to throw fastballs where you want to and be able to get into right-handed hitters, especially in this division, is gonna be key.

“Meansy is a great example of how to navigate through really, really difficult lineups with that kind of stuff.”

Means said he takes pride in that role, trying to instill in those pitchers the importance of being routine-oriented in the same way veterans did for him when he arrived. His routine led him to a no-hitter, and he’ll try to continue his dominant start to the season Tuesday.

“It’s been crazy, but it hasn’t really set in still,” Means said. “I don’t think we’re really going to be able to look back at this until the offseason because I’m just so locked into this season and locked into just getting ready every five days. All that, it’s cool, it really is, but I haven’t really experienced it yet, mentally, emotionally.

“I’m just trying to pitch against the Mets and maybe get a hit.”

Around the horn

» The Orioles replaced Lowther on the roster with left-hander Keegan Akin. Akin was expected to make Baltimore’s rotation out of spring training but struggled with his command. The Orioles called him up to add a fresh arm to their bullpen.

» Outfielder DJ Stewart, who Hyde said suffered a left hamstring strain in Sunday’s loss, was “doing better” Monday. Hyde added Stewart was possibly available off the bench, but his preference was to stay away from him altogether.

» Outfielder Yusniel Diaz, the Orioles’ No. 7 prospect per Baseball America, exited Sunday’s Norfolk game early with a leg injury, Hyde said. Acquired in the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Diaz has dealt with several leg injuries since joining the organization.

» Baltimore plans to skip its fifth starter’s spot in the next turn through its rotation. Means and right-hander Matt Harvey will start Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, against the Mets, with Harvey making his first outing at Citi Field after spending 2012 to 2018 with the Mets. The Orioles haven’t yet decided who will start Friday’s opener against the New York Yankees, though Hyde said it will “probably” be Dean Kremer. Jorge López and Means will follow in the series.

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