BALTIMORE—The Orioles’ only All-Star, John Means, proved again why he was worthy of that selection.
Means, who had lost four straight and five of six, allowed just a run in seven innings and received plenty of offensive support as the Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 7-1, on Saturday night.
It was Means’ first win since July 19, and he evened his record at 9-9. Last season, no Oriole pitcher won more than eight games. The Orioles are 42-88.
“I felt like I was attacking hitters again,” Means said. “I think some of that comes from figuring out what I was doing wrong with my mechanics and feeling comfortable again to just go at guys and that’s kind of what I did in the first half, and I felt like I was doing it again.”
A year ago, when the Orioles lost 115 games, they didn’t win their 42nd until the 146th game. This win puts them 16 games ahead of 2018. They’re just six wins away from surpassing last season’s 47 victories.
Tampa Bay used struggling reliever Jose Alvarado as its opener, and it was an abject failure. Alvarado walked three of the five batters he faced, and was pulled with a 3-0 count against DJ Stewart. He also threw two wild pitches, including one that allowed Hanser Alberto to score.
With the bases loaded, Pedro Severino closed the 30-minute inning by grounding into a double play, and the inning ended with the Orioles leading by just 1-0.
Severino hit a grand slam in the third against Austin Pruitt, who relieved Alvarado in the first. It was the Orioles’ third grand slam this season, and their first since May 31.
“When I was on deck, I was just thinking when he got a 2-2 count, I say, ‘If he walks [Stewart], it’s bases loaded again, and I have to do a better job,’” Severino said. “I got a situation. I put it in my mind to concentrate, and hit the pitch high in the zone, and I executed.”
Alberto and Jonathan Villar hit back-to-back home runs with two outs in the fourth, giving them a 7-0 lead. It was Alberto’s 10th home run of the season. He’s the eighth Oriole to hit 10 or more this season. Villar’s was his 19th. The next home run Villar hits will be the eighth time an Oriole has hit 20 home runs and stolen 20 bases in the same season.
Means equaled a career high when he struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter. He threw seven innings for the third time this season.
“I just thought he had everything working,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“Utilizing both breaking balls and just being unpredictable with his fastball and changeup. Thought it was his best pitch-mix outing of the season.”
In the first three of the four straight losses, Means didn’t make it out of the fourth inning. Against Kansas City on Monday, Means didn’t allow a hit for five innings, but allowed the six batters he faced in the sixth to reach base.
“The first five innings felt really good and then the sixth inning kind of fell apart,” Means said.
“I knew exactly what I was doing wrong, it’s just kind of that in between work that I needed … me and [pitching coach Doug Brocail] really did a lot before this start, especially out of my stretch, and I felt a lot more comfortable tonight.
“I think lately I’ve just been getting behind guys and having to throw all these pitches and try to pinpoint location, and I felt like I can just go after guys, attack with all my pitches. Kind of whatever I wanted.”
Mike Brosseau homered with two outs in the fifth. It was Brosseau’s sixth home run. Five have come in seven games against the Orioles.
“Really made just one bad pitch, handing a breaking ball to a hot hitter with a quick bat and with two strikes,” Hyde said.
“But besides that, I just thought he had all his pitches working. I loved the breaking balls tonight besides that one. I thought he kept them off-balance with a really good changeup again and located his fastball. Really cruised through seven innings.”
Hunter Harvey pitched a scoreless eighth, allowing a hit and striking out one. His fastball touched 99 mph several times.
“I’ve been hearing about him for a long time,” Severino said “He got great speed, fastball 100 mph, commands the fastball great. He’s one of the future guys with great potential.
“It’s easy for me because when everybody’s late for a fastball at 100, I keep calling fastball. I like to see everybody late, but at one point, I have to mix it up and call a [split-finger fastball]. We threw one or two splittys today, and he threw great.”