BALTIMORE—John Means looked terrific for five innings. Means, who hadn’t gotten through four innings in his previous three starts, didn’t allow a hit through five to the Kansas City Royals.
In the sixth, Means and the Orioles came apart and suffered their eighth straight defeat, 5-4, on Monday night. They’ve lost 13 of 14.
DJ Stewart’s RBI double gave the Orioles a 1-0 led in the first against Jose Lopez, but that slim lead was quickly gone in the sixth.
Means faced six batters, retiring none. Nicky Lopez led off with a single, and Jonathan Villar made a neat stop of Nick Dini’s grounder through the middle. He threw the ball to second baseman Hanser Alberto for a possible double play, but Alberto dropped it for an error. Lopez took third and scored on Whit Merrifield’s RBI single.
Alex Gordon singled to right, loading the bases, and Hunter Dozier’s drive to left, which Jace Peterson couldn’t catch with a dive, scored Dini and Merrifield, and the Orioles were behind, 3-1.
“He didn’t give up a hit through five, just really throwing the ball well,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“Throwing the ball well in the sixth, too, just a couple of well-placed singles, an error in the middle that really hurt. Unfortunately, he was throwing the ball great and things kind of unraveled for us again in that sixth inning.”
The Orioles also unraveled in the sixth on Sunday against the Boston Red Sox.
After Jorge Soler walked to load the bases, Gabriel Ynoa replaced Means and retired all three batters he faced to end the inning.
Even though Means lost the game, he felt better about this start. He’s lost four straight starts.
“I’ve been working on a lot of stuff between outings and trying to figure out what works best for me, and I thought the first five innings I was doing exactly what I was working on,” he said.
“My pitches were doing what they were supposed to. I was locating how I was supposed to, and then the sixth I felt like I was starting to trend back to what I was doing wrong. It’s just a little mechanical adjustment that I’m looking forward to making next outing.”
Means didn’t think it was misfortune that caused the issues in the sixth.
“Luck doesn’t happen if you strike people out,” Means said. “… If I was locating where I wanted to, I could have gotten through it.
“It’s one of those things I thought I did a really good job the first half of the year. I was good at limiting the runners from scoring. I just haven’t been able to do that, and I think it’s a little mechanical flaw right now.”
Means threw so well through the first five, he looked as though he would give Hyde a rare long outing.
“Well, you’re hoping, but it’s baseball and anything can happen,” Hyde said. “Yeah, he was cruising right along through five innings and a little slap single down the left-field line to break up the no-hitter in the sixth, and we don’t make a play in the middle that we need to make. That really changed the whole inning.”
Villar led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer, and the Orioles trailed, 3-2. The Orioles had runners at first and second, but Stevie Wilkerson hit into an odd double play in which both Trey Mancini (forceout) and Renato Nunez (rundown) were retired at third base, ending the inning.
Lopez and Dini each homered against Ynoa to begin the seventh, and the Orioles trailed, 5-2.
Stewart’s RBI single made it 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh. The Orioles loaded the bases with two outs, but Anthony Santander flied out to short center, ending the inning.
Rio Ruiz homered with two outs in the ninth against Ian Kennedy. Villar reached on an infield single, and Mancini lined to center to end it.
Rutschman’s first Maryland home run: Adley Rutschman had a huge night, going 5-for-5 and hitting his first home run for the Aberdeen IronBirds.
Rutschman’s heroics led the IronBirds to a 6-2 win over the Vermont Lake Monsters at Ripken Stadium.
Rutschman’s home run was a long shot in the sixth inning.
“It was really nice, got a fastball to hit and didn’t miss it, which is always a good feeling to be on time and feel your swing,” Rutschman told BaltimoreBaseball.com’s Justin Fitzgerald.
“They actually gave me the ball after the game. I don’t know how they found it. I just gave it to a fan after the game.”
Rutschman was the DH, had three singles, four RBIs and tried to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run. He is hitting .325.
“Hitting’s a lot of rhythm, so just making sure my swing’s feeling good, my timing’s right and just continuing to work on my process.”
Shorebirds looking ahead: The Delmarva Shorebirds, who are one win away from a franchise record, sent three of the their top players to meet some of the Orioles on an off-day.
Pitchers Grayson Rodriguez and Drew Rom and infielder Adam Hall were on hand for the game. All three have been with Delmarva throughout the season.
The Shorebirds, who will begin the South Atlantic League playoffs after their regular season concludes on September 2, have won 83 games, matching the 1996 team.
“It’s been amazing for our core guys to still be with us and have the talent that we have,” Rom said.
Hall is confident that Delmarva can always win.
“Pretty much our game has been winning,” Hall said. “I feel this way, and I’m pretty sure that most of the guys on the team feel the same way, any situation that we’ve been in, we haven’t felt like we would lose a game.”
Rodriguez enjoyed one aspect of his visit the most.
“Earlier, we got to sit in the pitchers’ meeting, and that was really special,” Rodriguez said. “
Rodriguez was impressed by the questions the pitchers asked about facing the Royals.
More minor matters: The Orioles released right-handed pitchers Josh Lucas and Matt Wotherspoon, who were at Triple-A Norfolk. Lucas pitched in nine games with the Orioles and had a 5.74 ERA in nine appearances. Wotherspoon had a 15.43 ERA in two appearances.
Austin Wynns was on the Orioles’ taxi squad in case Chance Sisco was not cleared to play after getting hurt on Sunday. Wynns will return to the Tides.
Baysox right-hander Michael Baumann was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week.
Jackson dies: Al Jackson, who played 10 seasons in the major leagues, and was the Orioles’ pitching coach from 1989-91, died at 83.
Jackson’s contributions to the growth of the Orioles’ pitchers during their 1989 “Why Not?” season were mentioned by pitchers who came to Baltimore for the team’s 30th reunion on August 9.
He pitched 10 seasons in the majors and was best known as one of the starters on the first New York Mets team in 1962. Jackson was a 20-game loser for the Mets in 1962 and 1965.