Orioles left-hander John Means followed a dreadful start to the second half with one of the strongest stretches of his All-Star season. But like the run of success he found himself enjoying amid Monday’s series finale with the Detroit Tigers, it came to an end.

The Tigers struck for five runs off Means to secure a 5-2 victory at Comerica Park and earn a series split in a four-game set between the teams best positioned to finish with baseball’s worst record. Even after Monday’s result, Detroit holds that distinction by 3½ games, with only a dozen games left in Baltimore’s season.

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That means only a few more starts in Means’ rookie season, one in which he established himself as a legitimate major league starter for the Orioles (49-101) after barely making the team out of spring training. Entering Monday with a 2.53 ERA in his five previous starts, Means allowed a leadoff triple to Victor Reyes before Jordy Mercer homered on the next pitch to give the Tigers (45-104) a 2-0 lead.

“They were aggressive, and I thought they had a pretty good game plan against me," Means said. "I thought I stayed in attack mode and made some pitches, but at the same time, they just did damage when they needed to. It’s frustrating, but I need to go back to the drawing board.”

Means needed only five more pitches to finish the first, retiring 12 batters in a row to get through four innings on 45 pitches. But Dawel Lugo singled on his first pitch of the fifth. Travis Demeritte followed with a slow roller to first base, and Means was unable to cover the bag in time for an out. A botched bunt attempt and a strikeout led to two outs, but Reyes drove in both runners with a double, getting caught in a lengthy pickle to end the inning.

“They were aggressive; he was getting some easy outs,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "And he just left a two-strike changeup up to drive in a couple runs to make it four. I thought he threw the ball well. I thought he looked good. They just kind of ambushed him early, and he left a changeup up later.”

Means put himself in a tough spot in the sixth, walking two of the first three batters before a single by Brandon Dixon loaded the bases. Lugo’s sacrifice fly ended Means’ outing after 5 2/3 innings, his first time not pitching into the seventh since Aug. 19. Branden Kline stranded Means’ two inherited runners with a groundout.

Means finished Monday’s outing with a 3.65 ERA in 143 innings, the first American League rookie to reach both marks since Detroit’s Michael Fulmer in 2016.

Another Mancini Monday

As Hyde put it, the Orioles had “the right guy up” with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth. But Trey Mancini took one slider then chased two more out of the zone for a game-ending strikeout that put a damper on a strong series.

“Terrible,” Mancini said. "I felt pretty good about my series overall, and of course, the one at-bat where I come out of myself and just … I don’t know how I chased those two pitches there in that situation. I was just trying to do too much, clearly, and definitely not happy about it.”

Despite a disappointing finish, Mancini went 7-for-19 in the series with three home runs, including a sixth-inning solo shot that provided the only run the Orioles scored in Detroit starter Tyler Alexander’s six innings. Mancini has homered and doubled 33 times each this season, making him of eight players who have done so, and has hit safely in 16 of his past 18 games, batting .333 in that span.

Austin Hays supplied the Orioles’ other run with an RBI single in the seventh.

A rough trip

With Mark Trumbo scratched from the Orioles’ lineup with a left trapezius strain, the Orioles had already lost one designated hitter for the day. Renato Núñez’s eighth-inning trip to the plate almost cost them another.

After watching from the on-deck circle as Anthony Santander worked a 12-pitch at-bat, Núñez came up and appeared to tweak something in his upper right leg on a swing. He got checked on by a trainer before returning to the batter’s box, and the next pitch from Buck Farmer hit him in the left hand. He again stayed in the game, and Hyde said X-rays on the hand came back negative.

Orioles right-hander Ryan Eades’ first pitch of the bottom of the eighth hit Jeimer Candelario, prompting both benches to receive a warning from home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz, but tempers did not flare otherwise.

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