BALTIMORE—It had been so long since the Orioles performed this well, it was almost hard to believe.
Entering Friday night’s game with the Cleveland Indians, the Orioles had lost 13 of 14 and watched their ERA swell to 5.93.
With pitcher John Means returning from the 10-day injured list, they had their most dependable starter back in the rotation, and he pitched as well as he had all season.
Means, who hadn’t pitched since June 16, allowed a two-out single to Carlos Santana in the first inning, a walk to the next hitter, Jordan Luplow, and nothing else in five innings as the Orioles routed the Indians, 13-0.
“We have not had many of these,” manager Brandon Hyde said about the blowout. “We were definitely due for one.”
Cleveland designated hitter Bobby Bradley reached on an error by shortstop Jonathan Villar in the second. Means then retired 11 straight hitters but was removed after five innings and 84 pitches because he was coming back from a shoulder strain.
Hyde said that he was going to carefully monitor Means after he missed his previous start. Fortunately for Hyde and the Orioles, Means had an 8-0 lead to work with in the second inning.
In Mike Clevinger’s first six starts against the Orioles, he had a 4-0 record and a 1.80 ERA. Clevinger was also coming off the IL, because of a sprained ankle. He had missed much of the season’s first half because of a back injury.
Clevinger walked three of his first six batters, and they each scored. Chance Sisco’s two-run home run, his third of the season, gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead. It was the first homer this season by the Orioles to land on Eutaw Street, and the 99th in the history of the ballpark. It actually landed in a trash can, where fans retrieved it.
Hanser Alberto’s two-run double gave the Orioles a 4-0 lead after one.
Dwight Smith Jr.’s sacrifice fly, Sisco’s RBI single and Anthony Santander’s two-run home run, his third, padded the lead to 8-0.
“You’ve got to remind yourself, but I stay pretty locked in the whole game,” Means said. “I don’t really watch what’s going on. I’m kind of in the zone the whole time, so I didn’t really try to stray away from what I was going out there to do.”
Clevinger was gone after 1 2/3 innings, and Santander hit his home run against Tyler Olson.
Rio Ruiz’s RBI single in the seventh, Sisco’s two-run double followed by Santander’s two-run double in the eighth upped the lead to 13-0.
When Sisco and Santander were called up from Norfolk earlier this month, Hyde said they’d get extended looks. Sisco’s five RBIs and Santander’s four helped their case for more extensive playing time. Sisco also had a home run taken away by a leaping catch at the fence by Cleveland’s Oscar Mercado to end the fourth.
“Both had huge nights, just really good at-bats,” Hyde said. “I think Chance just juiced that first ball. I like the way Chance takes pitches, I like the way Chance works an at-bat. He doesn’t chase. He gives you a real good at-bat. He’s getting a chance to hit because of that. He doesn’t expand the strike zone. He’s obviously got some full power.
“Tony uses the whole field. That was a beautiful swing on the curveball or slider that he hit out to left-center. Another guy that’s developing at the big league level now and taking good at-bats. It’s nice to see both those guys swing the bat so well.”
Sisco and Santander have similar stats. Santander has played 20 games, hitting .286 with three home runs and 12 RBIs. Sisco is at .289 in 13 games with three homers and 12 RBIs.
Sisco’s catching was seemingly made easier with the big lead.
“Whenever you’re throwing up zeroes, you’re doing something right and credit to those pitchers,” Sisco said. “John Means started us off really good with those five innings, and then after that, the guys kind of cleaned it up. They made it easy, to be honest.”
The win gave the Orioles a 23-58 record at the mathematical halfway point, equaling last year’s mark. A year ago the Orioles went 24-57 in the second half to finish 47-115.
The shutout was the Orioles’ second of the season, their first since May 4, and they set season highs for runs scored and margin of victory.
It was their largest shutout win since they blased Toronto, 15-0, on August 19, 2006, and the first time they scored four runs or more runs in each of the first two innings since August 26, 1979.
On Saturday, they’ll try to win consecutive games for the first since May 4-6, and win their first series since April 22-24.
Reliever Branden Kline allowed three hits in two scoreless innings, Paul Fry a hit in the eighth, and Miguel Castro worked the ninth.