DENVER — It was a moment, in the scheme of a plodding baseball game, that represented not only the Orioles' high-point in not only Friday's 8-6, walkoff loss to the Colorado Rockies, but maybe one of the best in their entire season.
Rookie left-hander John Means, who has spent the last two months as the Orioles' one feel-good story on the pitching side and spent Friday afternoon at Coors Field having his swing ribbed by teammates, worked an eight-pitch walk to turn the lineup over and help build the Orioles lead to its largest point of the day, 5-1.
When he got to first, his teammates whooping it up already, he took the moment up a level by appropriating the "start-the-lawnmower" celebration the Orioles' hitters have used all year.
“I felt good about how the game was going,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
It was as fun as it was fleeting.
Two batters later, because Means didn't break for home on a grounder up the middle by Stevie Wilkerson and Jonathan Villar went toward third anyway, the Orioles turned a situation where they had two in scoring position and one out into the end of the inning, leaving Trey Mancini on deck.
Considering the last week of Orioles baseball, the rest is probably best not dwelled upon. Means allowed two runs in the bottom of that inning to end on an even 100 with three runs in. Renato Núñez pinch-hit for Branden Kline and homered to make it a 6-3 game in the seventh, but two home runs on consecutive pitches off Shawn Armstrong after the stretch tied it.
Mychal Givens, who entered this week having turned his season around in a major way, took his third loss of the week when Trevor Story hit his second home run of the game in the ninth.
It was the Orioles' seventh loss in a row, this coming in their first game at Colorado's Coors Field since 2004.
“I feel really good about Shawn Armstrong there,” Hyde said. “He's given up one run since he's joined us, and just had a bad inning. It was set up perfect for us. Armstrong, and we had Bleier in a lot-of-left-hander situation. Then you go with Givens with the lead. It just didn't work out that way.”
Nolan Arenado, the Rockies' superstar third baseman, began making notches in the dugout wall under the only question anyone has asked about this series — How many home runs will there be? — with a two-out blast in the first inning.
New Oriole Keon Broxton made his presence known on his first swing of his first game with a missile of a home run that, at 474 feet, was the second-longest in all of baseball this season. He said he was going to bunt that at-bat, but instead decided to swing away.
That accounted for two of their three runs in the third inning, and Dwight Smith Jr. extended the lead to 4-1 in the fourth before Means fueled the Orioles' rally in the fifth.
The bullpen's struggles came with the pitchers manager Brandon Hyde would want in such situations all lined up. Branden Kline struck out all three batters he faced, but with his spot due up first in the visitor's half of the next inning, that was all he got. Núñez made the decision worth it, and Richard Bleier allowed one hit in his 2/3 innings before Armstrong had an uncharacteristic blip.
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Paul Fry pitched a scoreless eighth before Givens allowed a leadoff single to Ryan McMahon and had Story walk the Rockies off.