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John Means deals but gets no help from bats, bullpen in Orioles’ 6-0 loss to Royals

As the Camden Yards grounds crew tossed fresh dirt onto the mound Thursday night, Orioles left-hander John Means stood behind it and waited, hoping for the chance to continue his outing despite the falling rain.

He did so, but a day after the Orioles’ offense broke out late, only the rain and the Kansas City Royals poured it on as Baltimore fell, 6-0, in the finale of a four-game series.

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The Orioles (45-94) settled for a series split despite receiving what was perhaps Means’ best start since he no-hit the Seattle Mariners on May 5. He went seven strong innings and allowed only five hits. But the first of those was a first-inning solo shot by Nicky Lopez, and the last was a double to lead off the eighth that came home on a Lopez single off Tanner Scott.

“I was just frustrated I couldn’t get through the eighth,” said Means, who was pulled after 89 pitches. “I gotta be able to go out and finish. My pitch count’s not very high and I wasn’t able to do that and so that’s the only negative thing that I really have.”

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The Orioles have lost each of Means’ past seven starts. A heavy rain in Baltimore seemed as if it might halt this one after five innings, but Means pitched the sixth as the rain dissipated. His opposite number, Kansas City right-hander Carlos Hernández, endured his own wait for the inning’s bottom half as the grounds crew worked to dry an infield that saw hardly any action with him in the game.

Hernández allowed three straight singles with two outs in the second, but Andrew Benintendi easily threw out Pedro Severino at home on Jahmai Jones’ grounder to left. The Orioles did not record another hit, producing hard contact off Hernández but mostly lofted into the air with little chance of it falling. In his sixth and final inning, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart both flew out to the warning track.

“We just had a tough time putting a rally together,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We drove a few balls to the wall the first half of the game that we just missed. Cedric [Mullins] to lead off the game in the first, DJ just missed one, Santander the other way was a good swing, but besides that, we just didn’t square many balls up.”

Lopez’s home run with one out in the first was only the third by a left-handed hitter among the career-high 25 Means has allowed this season. Among pitchers with at least 120 innings, only seven have allowed more home runs per inning than Means.

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His go-to secondary pitch was not his signature changeup, but his curveball. Of the 14 swings against his changeup, only one was a whiff, the fifth straight start in which Means got two or fewer swing-and-misses on the pitch. He averaged about 5 ½ whiffs per start with his changeup before this stretch, according to Statcast.

“My changeup’s kind of sucked lately, to be honest,” Means said. “So the curveball was the pitch. It’s the pitch that’s a little more consistent right now, and hopefully, we can get everything working here soon.”

After the homer, he cruised for much of the next six innings, surrendering three singles in separate frames and a pair of walks to former Orioles infielder Hanser Alberto, who entered play with two walks in 220 plate appearances for the Royals. Means took the mound in the eighth for only the second time as a major league starter, the other being his no-hitter. Hunter Dozier, whose dropped flyball Wednesday gave the Orioles the lead amid their nine-run eighth inning, doubled to end his outing.

“He was really good,” Hyde said. “Besides the homer to Lopez early and the double to Dozier there in the eighth inning, he was in complete command of the game. I really liked his breaking balls tonight. He didn’t use his changeup as much, didn’t seem like, but good fastball throughout, good breaking balls. They’re an aggressive-hitting team, and he had a lot of low pitch-count innings, not much traffic. He did a great job, just didn’t score for him.”

Scott then surrendered singles to three of the first four batters he faced, two coming off Jones’ glove at second and another past him in a drawn-in infield as Kansas City’s lead grew to 4-0. Dozier scored two with a home run off Manny Barreda in the ninth.

“If you look at Tanner’s inning there, they didn’t hit one ball hard,” Hyde said. “Kind of an unlucky outing.”

Hernández and reliever Domingo Tapia and Scott Barlow combined to retire 16 straight Orioles before Stewart’s two-out walk in the ninth. Outside of Wednesday’s eighth inning, Baltimore has managed one run in its previous 21 turns at bat.

Around the horn

  • Before the game, the Orioles placed right-handed starter Matt Harvey on the 10-day injured list with right knee inflammation and recalled infielder Richie Martin, providing cover as Ramón Urías was out of the lineup for a fourth straight game with right upper leg soreness. Harvey, 32, initially suffered the injury in an Aug. 4 start against the New York Yankees. Before Harvey’s previous outing Wednesday, Hyde said the Orioles had been going “start-to-start with Harvey here for the last four or five starts” and would evaluate again after he faced the Royals. “We’ll see when and if he comes back,” Hyde said Thurdsday.
  • Trey Mancini was back in the lineup at designated hitter after missing the series’ first three games with an oblique injury, going 0-for-3 with a walk.
  • Right-hander Chris Ellis, who pitched five hitless innings Saturday against the Yankees before a scoring change Thursday turned a first-inning error into a double, will start Friday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. Left-hander Keegan Akin will start one game in Saturday’s doubleheader.

BLUE JAYS@ORIOLES

Friday, 7:05 p.m.

TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM

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