The Detroit Tigers sat slugger Miguel Cabrera on Thursday to ensure his next hack at career home run No. 500 would be back home at Comerica Park.
His teammates, however, picked up the slack by hitting three home runs off Orioles ace John Means in what was easily his worst start of the season, relegating the Orioles to another series sweep and their eighth straight loss with a 6-4 defeat Thursday afternoon before an announced 8,382 fans at Camden Yards.
“I just didn’t think he had his stuff today,” manager Brandon Hyde said of the All-Star left-hander.
Means looked on track to continue his run of bounce-back starts since a rough return from the injured list with three shutout innings before a leadoff walk to former Oriole Jonathan Schoop — a difficult feat — portended doom.
Schoop scored on a double by Jeimer Candelario before serving up two-run home runs to former teammate Renato Núñez and Victor Reyes. Robbie Grossman began the fifth inning with a home run, then a triple by Candelario chased Means with a 6-1 deficit.
“I thought it was pretty good for the first few innings and that one inning, I just thought I was missing my spots,” Means said.
Means tied a career high with six runs allowed, and hadn’t allowed six earned runs in a start since Aug. 13, 2019, against the New York Yankees. His ERA climbed to 3.21, and is 5.67 in five starts since he returned from a shoulder strain.
“Physically, I feel good,” Means said. “It’s just I feel like my mechanics, I’m kind of going back and forth on certain things and just trying to get back in that rhythm that I had before I went on. Trying some different things out. Obviously, I’m not going to quit. I’m just going to try my best to get back or I’ll lose my mind.”
Marcos Diplán kept the Orioles (38-75) close with 1 2/3 innings of shutout relief to give him his third straight hitless, scoreless outing since his debut last weekend. Tanner Scott, Cole Sulser and Tyler Wells kept Detroit from scoring again.
The hole Means dug the Orioles, however, was too deep. They lost for the eighth straight time, their third losing streak of at least eight games this season.
Said first baseman Trey Mancini: “It’s tough — there’s no way around it. At this point, we’ve got to start putting more wins together. We had a good thing going there for a little bit after the All-Star break, and we kind of hit a wall here. We’ve got a month and a half, maybe a little more than that left. We’ve got to forget this, forget these two weeks and go out there and play like we know how and play like we did right after the All-Star break”
Stewart slugs two
Outfielder DJ Stewart has hit home runs in bunches the past few seasons and might be embarking on a similar stretch now. After homering in his last start Tuesday, Stewart hit two solo home runs Thursday to give him three in two games and 10 this season.
“Really nice to get him on time with a couple fastballs there,” Hyde said. “He put some really good swings on it. Drove one to left-center and a long home run to right. Good to see him get on fastballs here lately. Hopefully, he can keep it going.”
His home runs in the fourth and sixth helped the Orioles chip away at the Tigers’ lead, and Richie Martin came around to score after a seventh-inning walk. Two Orioles reached with one out in the ninth, but Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays grounded into force-outs to end the threat.
The Orioles’ early lead came in unique fashion after Mullins extended his hitting streak to 19 games with a leadoff single and Hays followed with a single that gave him a 10-game hitting streak of his own.
Anthony Santander hit a chopper that was initially ruled an inning-ending double play, but Núñez came off the bag at first base and the inning continued. It was the Orioles’ first overturned challenge since Opening Day. In the ensuing at-bat, Santander broke for second with Matt Manning still set on the mound, and as the Tigers tried to corral him back, Mullins broke for home and scored.
The play was deemed a double steal, giving Mullins his 22nd stolen base of the season and the Orioles’ first steal of home since Jonathan Villar on Aug. 30, 2019.
Hyde said it was a called double steal, “but Tony got a little anxious and it worked out for us.”
Around the horn
>> Wells (wrist strain) was activated from the injured list Thursday, taking the roster spot the Orioles cleared by optioning right-hander Isaac Mattson to Triple-A Norfolk after Wednesday’s game. Hyde said he’d be used in a closer role now that he’s back, another vote of confidence in the Rule 5 draft pick.
>> The Orioles will start Spenser Watkins and Jorge López the first two games at Fenway Park this weekend, with Sunday’s starter not yet announced. It’s left-hander Keegan Akin’s turn in the rotation that day, but left-hander Bruce Zimmermann could return from the injured list to take his rotation spot.
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Latest Baltimore Orioles
TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM