Throughout John Means’ unassailable, start-by-start ascent to the level of the game’s best pitchers, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has made clear that there’s a different feeling around the team on his days to pitch.
On a team for which little is going right, those occasions are their best chance to win. And yet, they lose like this.
In an 8-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Monday at Target Field that the few who have occasion to remember it will recall as a signature defeat for these rebuilding Orioles, DJ Stewart hit a go-ahead home run after a 45-minute rain delay in the eighth inning, only for the bullpen to allow six runs and ensure a seventh straight loss.
“It’s really disappointing,” Hyde said. “Big homer by DJ there to give us a lead. We’re just really struggling out of the bullpen.”
Means held up his end of the deal yet again, but after Cedric Mullins walked to lead off the game, stole second and scored on a two-out double by Anthony Santander, the Orioles spent the rest of the game creating half-chances and squandering them. Mullins was thrown out trying to score from first on a double by Freddy Galvis in the seventh.
All the All-Star left-hander did was allow a solo home run in the third to Trevor Larnach, then a single to the next batter, but erased it with a double play. After a solo home run by Kyle Garlick in the sixth created a slim deficit for the Orioles, Means stranded two in the seventh and was getting his good-game fist-bumps in the dugout when the rain came.
Means saw his American League-best ERA climb slightly to 1.79, and said he felt “OK,” lamenting his fastball command and how he didn’t get ahead of hitters enough.
Hyde actually scoffed at that assessment.
He said: “What? Two solo homers in seven innings? He was awesome. You win those games when he pitches like that, and we didn’t.”
Stewart’s home run made it so Means at least left with a chance to win. After the delay, Stewart turned on the second pitch of the resumed inning for a go-ahead home run. At 95 pitches, Means wasn’t coming back out for the eighth even before the delay.
But mercurial reliever Tanner Scott walked Andrelton Simmons to lead off the eighth and passed two runners on to closer César Valdez. Hyde said Scott had no fastball command and bounced most of his sliders.
Hyde was going to ask Valdez for a five-out save, but he only recorded one — a sacrifice fly. He let two of Scott’s runners score and exited after three straight hits. Rookie Tyler Wells allowed three singles and a walk to allow the rest of Valdez’s three runners to score and one of his own.
“A leadoff walk to a guy that never walks in the eighth really hurts. A wild pitch. Big punch-out on [Nelson] Cruz there, but then the knock and was just trying to get a ground-ball double play somehow with Valdez. He usually gets the ball on the ground, and just … he struggled tonight.
“Hopefully, these guys can turn it around and get some outs like they were the first month of the year. Right now, it’s very, very challenging.”
Baltimore Orioles Insider
The Orioles have lost 14 of 16, and in losing to Minnesota (18-29), now have the worst record in baseball at 17-30.
The Orioles’ outfield mix remains fascinating and temporary, and Monday showed that. Stewart was starting because Hyde said Austin Hays had some hamstring discomfort, though the team hopes it’s not serious. In the other corner outfield spot, Santander had two doubles to give him five extra-base hits since his return from the injured list Friday.
And while Mullins made that out at home, he reached base three times with a run scored.
Around the horn
Infielder Rio Ruiz, who was designated for assignment last week, was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Rockies. He’s the second player the Orioles have lost on waivers this month after reliever Jay Flaa was claimed by the Atlanta Braves.
Tuesday, 7:40 p.m.
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