If there is one flaw to be pointed to in John Means’ outstanding first two months of this season, it’s that the left-hander has frequently surrendered home runs. But with the Orioles scuffling the way they have since Means no-hit the Seattle Mariners, even the slightest of blemishes can prove damning.
Home runs off Means by a dichotomy of Chicago White Sox — light-hitting outfielder Billy Hamilton and reigning American League MVP José Abreu — were more than enough support for right-hander Lance Lynn to shut down the Orioles, 3-1, for their 12th straight defeat as they dropped both halves of Saturday’s doubleheader at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“He pitched great,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He pitched well enough to win.”
Since Means’ no-hitter, the Orioles (17-35) have won twice in 21 games, losing all four of Means’ starts in that span. It’s hard to place the blame on him; he pitched six shutout innings in the first, left with a lead in the next two, and was simply outdueled Saturday. He’s posted a 3.33 ERA while the only runs that have scored with him on the mound have come on home runs.
Despite his place as the Orioles’ top starter, Means said he didn’t put any extra pressure on himself to try to stop what is now tied for the fourth-longest losing streak in team history.
“I just control what I can control and go out there and try to get us a win,” Means said. “I haven’t been able to pitch well enough to do that.”
Neither Means nor Hyde expressed any concern about the home runs, though Means’ 11 allowed are tied for the fifth most in baseball despite his 2.05 ERA being the eighth lowest. He has done a good job of preventing baserunners otherwise, leading the American League in WHIP. That’s despite loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter in a 35-pitch first inning that he managed to escape.
But with little margin for error as the Orioles offense again lacked home run and RBI leader Trey Mancini, Hamilton hitting his first home run of the year in the fourth inning was a sharp blow, only for Abreu to double down with a two-run shot a frame later.
Means left after allowing those three runs in five innings, the first time in eight starts he didn’t complete the sixth.
“I was really hoping to pitch better to get the win,” Means said. “I should’ve pitched better, but couldn’t get it done today, and I’ll just try to do it next time.”
No RISP, no reward
The Orioles have struggled in practically all facets during these past dozen games — “Got to get better in really all areas,” manager Brandon Hyde said after the 7-4 loss that opened the doubleheader — but over the latter half of the losing streak, they have particularly struggled at coming through with runners in scoring position.
Since the last out of the first inning in Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals, the Orioles have gone 4-for-61, a .066 batting average, with a runner on second or third base.
Their biggest threat in Lynn’s five shutout innings came in the last of those, with Ryan McKenna following Chance Sisco’s single with a double that bounced over the fence, forcing Sisco to stay at third. Cedric Mullins struck out to end the inning.
“Lance Lynn pretty much dominated us for five,” Hyde said. “Just not getting big hits in big spots right now.”
Getting to Chicago’s bullpen, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the sixth, but mostly wasted the opportunity in their penultimate chance of the seven-inning game. Stevie Wilkerson was hit by a pitch to plate a run, but Ryan Mountcastle struck out and Sisco grounded out, giving the Orioles 22 straight hitless at-bats with a runner in scoring position.
Make it a dozen
In Sunday’s series finale, the Orioles will try to avoid the fourth losing streak of at least 13 games since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954, the record being the 1988 team’s 21 consecutive losses to open the season. The inaugural club lost 14 straight, with the 2009 Orioles dropping 13 in a row in the final weeks of the season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks entered Saturday night’s game against St. Louis Cardinals on a 12-game losing streak, as well. The Orioles would be the first AL team to lose 13 games in a row since the 2016 Minnesota Twins.
Longest Orioles slumps
O’s losing streaks of 10 games or more since moving to Baltimore
Lost 21 — April 4-28, 1988
Lost 14 — Aug. 11-25, 1954
Lost 13 — Sept. 17-30, 2009
Lost 12 — May 18-29, 2021
Lost 12 — Aug. 16-28, 2004
Lost 12 — Sept. 18-29, 2002
Lost 12 — June 18-July 3, 1955
Lost 11 — July 27-Aug, 8, 1958
Lost 10 — June 12-21, 2019
Lost 10 — May 26-June 5, 2010
Lost 10 — Sept. 17-26, 2008
Lost 10 — Sept. 1-19, 2001
Lost 10 — June 23-July 3, 1999
Lost 10 — Aug 23-Sept 2, 1998
Latest Baltimore Orioles
Lost 10 — June 3-13, 1987