Orioles manager Brandon Hyde on the pitching of John Means and the loss to the Rangers.
Orioles left-hander John Means got back to his scoreless ways Sunday, but so did Texas Rangers right-hander Kyle Gibson as Baltimore missed a chance for a sweep, falling 1-0 in 10 innings.
The Orioles (7-9) began the top half of the inning with Maikel Franco placed at second base, per the league’s extra-inning rule. He moved to third when Ryan Mountcastle was denied extra bases on a diving catch by left fielder Willie Calhoun. Franco initially went back to the bag on pinch-hitter Trey Mancini’s line drive into right, thinking the ball might be caught, but it reached right fielder Adolis García on one hop for a single. His throw home easily caught Franco, and manager Brandon Hyde argued to no avail for an obstruction call against catcher José Trevino.
“That’s a really tough read,” Hyde said. “Ball’s up in the air, you’re thinking tag. He lays out and catches that ball, you’ve got to be able to tag and score. From our vantage point, didn’t know if it was going to hang up for him or not, so he went back to tag, and the guy just made a heck of a throw.”
Needing only a run to win, the Rangers tried to bunt their automatic runner, Charlie Culberson, to third, but right-hander Travis Lakins Sr. fielded Eli White’s bunt and threw to Franco at third for a fielder’s choice. Lakins struggled with his command from there; White moved to second on a wild pitch ahead of two walks, eventually scoring the winning run on Nate Lowe’s single to leftwith the bases loaded.
After allowing more than a run for the first time in seven starts in his most recent outing, Means worked seven shutout innings. Paired with his seven one-hit innings Opening Day in Boston, Means is the only starter this season with multiple scoreless outings of at least seven frames.
He began dominantly, striking out the side around a one-out single in the first inning and adding three more punchouts while retiring the Rangers in order in the second and third.
But Texas mostly kept Means out in the stretch from there, getting the leadoff batter on in each of the next three frames. An inning-opening error from Franco simply meant extra pitches.
Trevino hopped on Means’ second pitch of the fifth for a leadoff double, then went to third on a groundball, staying there when White worked a nine-pitch walk. But neither runner advanced farther, with Means collecting his seventh strikeout before a first-pitch lineout to center ended the threat.
“I knew I just needed to make my pitches, just stay relaxed,” Means said. “If I executed, I was fine. The way the changeup was working today, all I needed to do was run it off the edge of the plate, and that’s what I did.
“The changeup was definitely a life-saver today. Thought I was getting my curveball over for strikes. The heater was playing well up in the zone and getting some swings and misses on that. But really, just the whole mix was playing today.”
Nick Solak led off the sixth with an infield single but was erased trying to steal second. Lowe then walked, but Means got a pair of grounders to complete the sixth.
He returned for the seventh and added two more strikeouts to get nine for the day, lowering his ERA to 1.52 on 96 pitches. In three road starts, he has allowed one earned run in 18 ⅔ innings.
“Today was his day,” second baseman Ramón Urías said through team interpreter Ramón Alarcón. “He was nasty with all of his pitches. I’m disappointed that unfortunately, we couldn’t get a victory for him, but he threw the ball pretty darn well.”
Cedric Mullins opened the day with a chopper to third base against Gibson, with a replay review holding up an out call on a close play at first. It set the tone for the afternoon.
Anthony Santander followed up with a double into right field, but Gibson retired the next six Orioles and pitched with a runner in scoring position only one time afterward. He used his sinker effectively, getting 10 outs on the ground while retiring the leadoff batter in all eight of his innings. He stuck out six Orioles and walked none.
“It was two really good starters that were on today,” Hyde said. “Pretty good baseball game.”
Urías managed two of the Orioles’ five hits.
“We were not able to be the offensive team that we can be,” he said.
After right-hander Adam Plutko replaced Means for the eighth and allowed two of the first three Rangers to reach, Hyde turned to left-hander Paul Fry.
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Like Means, Fry showed increased velocity in 2020, raising his average fastball velocity by 2 mph to 92.8 mph, per MLB’s Statcast data. In stranding both of Plutko’s runners, Fry threw a 95.6 mph fastball to García, the hardest pitch of his career, before getting an inning-ending flyout on a 94.7 mph fastball. He struck out David Dahl on three pitches to open the ninth before giving way to CésarValdez, who retired the next two to send it to extras.
With Lakins getting two outs in the 10th, the bullpen’s scoreless streak reached 13 ⅓ innings before Lowe’s winning hit. The pitching staff allowed four runs total in the series.