Baltimore Orioles

John Means doubles, deals in Orioles’ 2-0 win to open series with Phillies

PHILADELPHIA — In what was perhaps his last at-bat as a major leaguer, John Means hammered an elevated fastball to deep center at Citizens Bank Park. The drive carried over Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odúbel Herrera, one-hopping the wall for a double that marked the Orioles left-hander’s first career extra-base hit and the first by a Baltimore pitcher in more than a decade.

The Orioles got no runs out of a hit that sent their dugout into a smiling frenzy, with Means running into an out at third base to end their half of the seventh inning, but the way he pitched Monday, it wasn’t necessary. Baltimore’s ace carried a shutout in the seventh of a 2-0 victory against a contending Phillies team, with the 6 ⅔ innings marking Means’ longest scoreless start since his May 5 no-hitter of the Seattle Mariners. Between that and Monday, the Orioles’ pitching staff had only one shutout: July 18 against the Kansas City Royals.


Thanks to Baltimore’s two first-inning runs, each of Means’ 20 outs recorded came with a lead, infrequent for him of late. Before Monday, the Orioles (48-102) had lost each of Means’ previous eight starts.

“This felt more like me,” Means said. “Changeup was good today, finally. Changeup, fastball was working. Curveball wasn’t as good, but I made through it. But yeah, this felt like more my style of pitching.”


While the possible introduction of the universal designated hitter could mean Monday marked Means’ last opportunity to bat, he showed he provides plenty of value with his arm. He worked around a two-out walk to National League Most Valuable Player candidate Bryce Harper in the first, then after Andrew McCutchen’s single to open the second, Means retired 13 in a row before Herrera’s one-out single in the sixth. But he struck out Harper for a second time to end the inning, completing the sixth for the fourth time in his past six starts.

Of Means’ 13 induced swing-and-misses, more than half came against Harper (four) and Phillies cleanup man J.T. Realmuto. He got five whiffs with his changeup, snapping a six-start streak of two or fewer. He had frequently been disappointed with his signature pitch of late, but it was his most-used secondary pitch Monday, with his curveball delivering the second Harper strikeout.

“Meansy had the changeup tonight; that was a big difference,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That was something that he’s struggled with here the past handful of starts, is kind of finding that changeup again, and he did tonight and had everything working.

“A great job of pitching against a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot.”

In the batter’s box with one out in the top of the seventh, Means fell behind 0-2 on two sinkers against Philadelphia right-hander Sam Coonrod. After a fastball high and away, Means decided to sit fastball, feeling he was just early on the one he had fouled off for the second strike. He redirected Coonrod’s elevated 98 mph offering at 102.7 mph, according to Statcast. It was the first extra-base hit by an Orioles pitcher since a Zack Britton home run July 3, 2011.

“I was like, ‘All right, if this is a fastball, I’m hitting it. If it’s a curveball, I’m gonna look like an idiot,’” Means said. “But I sold out, and it worked.

“If that’s my last at-bat, I’m happy with it.”

Orioles starting pitcher John Means, right, motions toward Baltimore's dugout after hitting a double during the seventh inning while the Phillies' first baseman Matt Vierling looks on Monday in Philadelphia.

Given Means’ lack of baserunning experience, Hyde said the double was “the last thing I wanted to see, to be 100% honest.” He was also not comfortable with Means’ decision to try to advance on a ball that got past Realmuto and went to the backstop.


“Either a homer where you can jog or a punchout,” Hyde deadpanned. “He hits a double, which now we’re going to hear about for the next 13 days and probably into the spring training. And then he decides to try to advance on a wild pitch off brick back to the best throwing catcher in the league. But he’s happy about his pop-up slide.”

In the inning’s bottom half, Means allowed a leadoff single to Realmuto, who reached second when second baseman Pat Valaika’s dive-and-flip attempt wasn’t enough for the forceout. Another groundball got the second out of the inning, but with Means at 105 pitches — his most since the no-hitter — Hyde turned to top reliever Cole Sulser, who got former Oriole Freddy Galvis to line out to right to strand both of Means’ runners.

Means has a 3.25 ERA and 0.99 WHIP on the season. With likely two starts left, he could join Dave McNally as the only Orioles to allow fewer than a baserunner per inning while pitching at least 150 innings.

Sulser managed the eighth without issue before rookie closer Tyler Wells went through the middle of Philadelphia’s order — Harper, Realmuto and McCutchen — to bounce back from a couple of rough outings.

“This was just our best starter giving a great effort,” Hyde said. “Just pitched an outstanding ballgame. Two of our better relievers getting the last seven outs, but it was Meansy.”

Orioles catcher Pedro Severino, right, and third baseman Kelvin Gutiérrez react after Severino bobbled and caught a pop out by Philadelphia Phillies' Andrew McCutchen to end Monday's 2-0 win for Baltimore in Philadelphia.


Pieced-together rallies have often evaded the Orioles in 2021. That wasn’t the case in Monday’s first inning against Phillies starter Ranger Saúrez.


With an atypical lineup lacking a few regulars, four of the first five Baltimore batters singled, with cleanup hitter Pedro Severino and five-hole hitter Ryan McKenna driving in runs. Kelvin Gutiérrez singled to open the second to improve the Orioles to 5-for-8 against Saúrez, but an unproductive bunt attempt from Means followed, and they managed only two more hits before Means’ double in the seventh, which marked their only extra-base hit of the night.

“We had some offense early,” Hyde said. “Really good first inning, great approaches early in the game. I thought Ranger Saúrez kind of settled in, but really was happy with how we swung the bat there that first inning.”

Around the horn

  • All-Star center fielder Cedric Mullins (rest) was out of Monday’s lineup, though he entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth. Infielders Trey Mancini (right side) and Ramón Urías (upper right leg) were also out as they continue to get regular days off to nursing their nagging ailments.
  • Right-handed starter Chris Ellis is dealing with some arm fatigue and is being pushed back a few days, so the Orioles will have a bullpen game Tuesday, with left-hander Keegan Akin starting Wednesday’s series finale.