BALTIMORE—After starter John Means needed 103 pitches to get through five innings, the Orioles needed four innings out of their rested bullpen to hang on to a two-run lead.
Shawn Armstrong (pictured above), Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier and Mychal Givens combined to allow one run on just one hit in four innings and the Orioles defeated the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2, on Tuesday night at Camden Yards.
The Orioles began the series three games behind the Blue Jays, who are also rebuilding, and with just eight home wins — the fewest in baseball.
“I’m aware of it,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “With where we are, our process that we’re going through, I’m not concerned about the standings.
“I’m concerned about how we play, and I’m concerned about trying to win a game that night and how we prepare that day, and if we’re playing the game the right way, giving these guys opportunities to develop at the major league level.
“At the same time … it feels a lot better to win than lose, for sure.”
The Orioles are 21-45, and can win consecutive games for the first time since May 4-6 if they beat Toronto on Wednesday. They’re also looking for their first series win since April 22-24.
Means threw 33 pitches in the first inning alone. He got the win for the first time in five decisions, improving to 6-4. In Means’ previous two starts, he pitched six innings each time, allowing a combined two runs on seven hits and didn’t get a decision. His earned run average is 2.60.
“My pitch count was up every inning,” Means said. “It seemed like there was some long at-bat or a runner getting on. I just couldn’t get that clean inning. But thanks to the bullpen for helping out. [Armstrong] did a great job coming in.”
The bullpen has been improving. Since the Orioles’ bullpen imploded on June 4 and turned a 12-5 ninth-inning lead against the Texas Ranger into a 12-11 win, they’ve pitched 20 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on 10 hits.
“Those six games, our bullpen has thrown the ball great and they’re kind of feeding off each other right now,” Hyde said. “They’re throwing more strikes. They’re attacking hitters more. They’re able to get to two strikes and put guys away and it’s been great.”
Offense effective: For the sixth time in 21 wins, the Orioles scored four or fewer runs.
They had a season-high six doubles among their 11 hits. Anthony Santander had three hits, Jonathan Villar had two and Stevie Wilkerson broke an 0-for-13 streak with a single in the eighth.
Keon Broxton, who came in as a defensive replacement, is in an 0-for-18 slide.
Smith closer: Outfielder Dwight Smith Jr., who has been on the seven-day concussion injured list since June 7, is improving, according to Hyde. He could return on Friday
“I think it’s going to be close,” Hyde said. “I think he’s progressing every day, still going through tests. I know that they had a light workout with him [Monday] to see how everything recovered. I think everything went well.
“Obviously, we’re going to err on the side of caution. He’s progressing and moving in the right direction.”
Minor matters: Seven Frederick Keys have been named to the Carolina League All-Star team. The All-Star Game will be played June 18 at Frederick’s Nymeo Field.
Pitchers Mike Baumann, Steven Klimek, David Lebron and Cody Sedlock, infielder Willy Yahn and outfielders Cole Billingsley and Zach Jarrett are on the North team. Its manager will be Keys manager Ryan Minor.
Branden Kline, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Friday, was transferred to Double-A Bowie to make room for the arrival of Tom Eshelman, who was acquired on Monday from Philadelphia for international signing bonus money.
Draft picks signed: The Orioles signed 20 of their 41 draft choices on Tuesday. The highest pick to sign was fourth-rounder New Mexico State shortstop Joseph Ortiz. They also signed OF Johnny Rizer (7), RHP Griffin McLarty (8), C Jordan Cannon (10), CF Mason Janvrin (14), RHP Kyle Martin (15), RHP Shelton Perkins (16), RHP Morgan McSweeney (17), RHP Malachi Emond (18), RHP Clayton McGinness (20), 3B Toby Welk (21), CF Shayne Fontana (23), RHP Garrett Farmer (25), RHP Nick Roth (26), LHP Dillon McCollough (27), RHP Jonathan Pendergast (28), LHP Dalton Stambaugh (30), C Harris Yett (32), CF Craig Lewis (33) and OF Trevor Kehe (36). Arizona State right-hander James Ryan was signed as an undrafted free agent.