BOSTON—John Means’ stellar and unexpected rookie season ended Saturday with a win.
Means, who allowed three runs in the first inning, got strong support from the Orioles in their 9-4 win over the Boston Red Sox.
He will finish his first major league season with a 12-11 record and 3.60 ERA. He entered the game tied for ninth among American League pitchers with a 4.5 WAR (wins over replacement).
Means didn’t expect to make the Oriole roster going into spring training. Instead he became their most dependable starter. His 12 wins account for 22.2 percent of the team’s 54 victories.
“That’s what I was trying to get, and it was this last game,” Means said of his 12th win. “I was trying to get a winning record. That’s something that I want to pride myself on, winning ballgames with this team.”
Those stats make Means a contender for American League Rookie of the Year.
Houston outfielder Yordan Alvarez, who homered against the Orioles in his major league debut and then hit three home runs against them on August 10, is considered the leader.
Means, Chicago outfielder Eloy Jimenez, Cleveland outfielder Oscar Mercado, Tampa Bay infielder Brandon Lowe and Toronto infielder Vladimir Guerrero are also expected to get attention in the voting.
Manager Brandon Hyde thinks that it’s notable for a player on a non-contending team to be considered.
“It’s huge, especially a young player that came out of nowhere that we feel like has a bright future and is going to be with us when we’re a competitive club and competing for a division,” Hyde said.
“It’s an over-.500 pitcher on a team that’s not over. 500. Well below. Just means that he won a lot of games for us and did what he did today.”
Means dismissed the award chatter.
“I don’t think about it,” he said. “Obviously, I see some stuff. I try to just go out there and pitch. My goal at the beginning of the year was to stay here the whole year and Rookie of the Year talk, I don’t know anything about it.”
The Orioles have won the first two games against the Red Sox, and can finish 2019 with their only series sweep on Sunday.
“We’re playing hard and Game 161 and 50 games out, or whatever we are, just continue to compete,” Hyde said. “I’m really excited with how we played today. I thought we played with a ton of energy. I thought we played to win. Everybody’s at-bats were important. Nice to see some of the young bullpen guys come in and have some success.”
In the season’s last game, former Oriole Eduardo Rodriguez goes for his 20th win. The Orioles will start Chandler Shepherd at 3:05 p.m. on Sunday.
If the Orioles win their final game, they’ll avoid the second-worst season in franchise history. Their record is 54-107, and in 1988, when they began 0-21, they finished 54-107 and had one game rained out.
Jonathan Villar doubled on the first pitch against Jhoulys Chacin and two pitches later, DJ Stewart’s fourth home run gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Means allowed a two-run home to Xander Bogaerts in the first followed by one from J.D. Martinez, allowing the Red Sox to lead, 3-2.
Richie Martin’s sixth home run tied the score in the second, and Renato Nunez’s 31st put the Orioles ahead, 4-3, in the third.
The Orioles scored four against Andrew Cashner in the sixth to take an 8-3 lead.
Austin Wynns’ RBI single, Martin’s run-scoring double and RBI singles from Villar and Trey Mancini finished Cashner.
Boston got a run in the bottom of the sixth on Sandy Leon’s RBI single.
The Orioles narrowly averted trouble in the bottom of the seventh when Branden Kline fielded Sam Travis’ bouncer to the mound with runners on first and second with one out.
Kline threw to second, but neither Martin nor Villar covered the bag. With the bases loaded, Brock Holt grounded to Villar, who started a double play, ending the inning.
“It was messed-up communication,” Martin said. “The ball was chopped, and I don’t want to speak for anybody else, but I think that we thought he was going to go to first. But that’s on us, the middle infield. We’ve got to do a better job.”
Mancini’s 35th home run and 96th RBI gave the Orioles a 9-4 lead in the ninth.
Orioles unsure about fall ball for Hays: Hyde said the Orioles had yet to make a decision about Austin Hays’ participation in the Arizona Fall League.
Hays was originally on the Surprise Saguaros’ roster for the AFL season, which began September 18. But when the Orioles found out that Hays could play in the majors and the AFL this season, they decided to bring him up.
The aim was for him to get additional at-bats after an injury-marred season, but after 64 major league at-bats, the Orioles may decide he’s had enough.
Villar steals 40: Villar stole his 40th base in the sixth inning. He’s the ninth Oriole to steal at least 40 and the first to do it since Brian Roberts in 2008.
He’s expected to play in his 162nd game on Sunday.