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John Means struggles in return from injured list as Orioles lose to Rays, 9-3

Since his May 5 no-hitter, John Means’ starts have earned holiday status from the Orioles’ fanbase. But by day’s end, there hasn’t been much to celebrate.

In Means’ first start since landing on the injured list with a left shoulder strain a month after that dominant performance, the Tampa Bay Rays tagged the All-Star left-hander for five runs in five innings, leading to their 9-3 victory over Baltimore on Tuesday night in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Orioles have fallen in all six of Means’ starts since the no-hitter.

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“Physically felt good,” Means said. “I just was throwing too many strikes, too many pitches over the plate. I thought I was attacking, and so were they, so just had too many fat pitches today.”

Tuesday’s outing marked Means’ first in the majors in more than six weeks after he exited his June 5 start in the first inning. It also was his first since Major League Baseball began enforcing stricter rules regarding pitchers’ use of spin-enhancing sticky substances. Means’ average spin rates on each his four pitches were the lowest of any of his 13 starts this year, according to Statcast, with his fastball spin being 166 revolutions per minute below his average entering play.

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Asked whether the league’s new rules had any impact on him as he worked his way back, Means said he hasn’t “had to adjust to it too much. I think it’s just one of those outings after coming off rehab that I wasn’t really as sharp as I would like.”

The Rays struck early, with Randy Arozarena doubling and scoring on Vidal Bruján’s single. Bruján advanced to second on the play, took third when center fielder Cedric Mullins made a strong catch but nobody caught his throw back to the infield, and scored on Wander Franco’s sacrifice fly.

Means pitched a clean second before Arozarena homered to open the third, and Francisco Mejía added a two-run shot in the fourth. After a single, Means retired the next six batters, ending his outing at 78 pitches. Manager Brandon Hyde had said he wouldn’t push Means in his first couple of starts off the IL, but Means still managed to complete five innings, a mark he reached in all but one start before his early exit.

Means said he felt he could’ve pitched deeper, but he hadn’t thrown more than three innings or 74 pitches in any of his rehab appearances, so he was understanding.

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“I just thought he was rusty early,” Hyde said. “I thought he got better as the game went on. ... I’m going to see how he feels the rest of the way, just talk to him, communicate with him, talk to the training staff and pitching guys, and use him as a regular starter the rest of the way, hopefully.”

After César Valdez continued his strong start to the second half with two scoreless innings, Shaun Anderson allowed four runs in the eighth, giving him to 10 in 4 ⅔ innings with Baltimore (31-63), which had its three-game winning streak ended.

Rounding errors

Pedro Severino celebrated his 28th birthday with an RBI single in the second inning off Rays rookie flamethrower Shane McClanahan. But McClanahan, who was born in Baltimore, kept the Orioles from capitalizing on their other opportunities in his five innings.

The Orioles managed to load the bases in that second inning, but McClanahan struck out Mullins to leave them that way. A Baltimore batter reached on an error to open both the third and fourth, but the team couldn’t capitalize.

That wasn’t the case in the eighth, when two more Tampa Bay errors led to a pair of Baltimore runs and brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate. But Rays right-hander Pete Fairbanks entered and froze Severino and pinch-hitter DJ Stewart for threat-ending strikeouts.

“They definitely gave us some opportunities,” Hyde said. “We had a shot there in the eighth. We had the tying run on with one out, and two shots at it there and just didn’t get it done, but they have really good bullpen arms, and McClanahan had really good stuff. He’s got great stuff as a starter, and then they bring in a bunch of dudes that have high-octane fastballs and good secondary stuff.”

Around the horn

  • To open a roster spot for Means, outfielder Ryan McKenna was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk.
  • Left-hander Keegan Akin will start Wednesday’s series finale. Right-hander Thomas Eshelman, who was in the rotation before Means’ return, will be in the bullpen going forward.
  • The Orioles signed their fourth-round draft pick, Arizona outfielder Donta’ Williams. He joins first-rounder Colton Cowser and second-rounder Connor Norby as Baltimore’s draftees who have signed.
  • Left-hander Zac Lowther, the Orioles’ No. 19 prospect according to Baseball America, was placed on Norfolk’s injured list with a left shoulder strain. Lowther has a 10.80 ERA in five appearances with Baltimore this year.
  • Third baseman Maikel Franco, on the injured list with a right ankle sprain, played in his first rehab game Tuesday with the Orioles’ “orange” Florida Complex League team, going 0-for-1 with a walk and sacrifice fly and making an error amid five innings in the field. Hyde said his “ankle felt good” afterward.
  • In partnership with the Trey Mancini Foundation, the Orioles will host an essential items drive Sunday at Gates A and H of Camden Yards to benefit Blessings in a Backpack. Sought items are canned soup, cereal, shelf stable milk and monetary donations.

ORIOLES@RAYS

Wednesday, 12:10 p.m.

TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM

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