BALTIMORE—It was a difficult day for John Means. Returning to the mound 12 days after the death of his father, Means was hoping to pitch two innings.
Instead, Means threw 34 pitches and faced only seven batters in the first inning. He retired just two of them and allowed three runs in a 6-5 loss to the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
Means, who made the shortest start of his career, wasn’t the losing pitcher. The Orioles hit three home runs against Max Scherzer, two by Anthony Santander and another by Pedro Severino, to tie it at 5.
A throwing error by Rio Ruiz in the eighth inning allowed the go-ahead run to score.
Means’ return was the story of the day.
“It wasn’t easy, but it’s one of those things you’ve got to do,” Means said in a video conference call.
“It’s the job, so I’ve got to go out there every five days. I look forward to getting out there again.”
Trea Turner led off with a walk. Juan Soto dumped a single into left field. Turner scored on Asdrubal Cabrera’s single. Kurt Suzuki’s pop fly landed just out of the reach of first baseman Renato Nuñez for a single to load the bases.
Carter Kieboom’s sacrifice fly scored Soto. After Josh Harrison popped out, Victor Robles’ single scored Cabrera to end Means’ start.
“Physically, he looked good,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s gone through a lot the last couple of weeks. I wasn’t expecting much, to be honest with you.”
Means was supposed to start the Orioles’ season opener on July 24 but arm fatigue prevented that. He had a rough outing on July 30th when he allowed five runs in the first inning to the New York Yankees but was better on August 4th, the night his father died when he allowed a run on two hits in 4 2/3 innings.
“He’s still building,” Hyde said. “This is kind of a spring training for him.”
Jorge López, who was claimed on waivers a week ago from Kansas City, replaced Means.
“It’s going to take a little while,” Hyde said of Means. “We’re going to do what’s best for John and the club. It’s not going to be because of lack of effort on his part. He had a setback early, and he had this unfortunate circumstance. It’s just going to take a little bit to get back to normal.”
Means’ father, Alan, died from pancreatic cancer, which he had been dealing with for a year. He was 57.
“Being home with the family was good,” Means said. “Getting to see them and be there for them, and make sure they’re all right was good. It hadn’t really set in. Today was pretty much the day, getting back to the job. It’s been tough.”
Santander homered against Scherzer with one out in the first. It was his sixth homer of the year.
López worked through the fourth without additional damage.
Turner and Soto began the fifth with singles. Cabrera struck out on a pitch in the dirt, and the runners moved to second and third. Suzuki’s sacrifice fly to deep center scored Turner, and Evan Phillips replaced López, who worked four innings.
“That was fantastic,” Hyde said of López. “That picked us up. Really impressed with his outing.”
Hyde said it was possible that López could follow Means in his next outing, which would come on Friday against Boston.
Means could throw about 50 pitches, then increase by 15 in subsequent outings.
Kieboom’s RBI single scored Soto, and the Orioles were behind, 5-1.
Severino hit a three-run home run, his fifth, with one out in the sixth, and the Orioles cut Washington’s lead to 5-4.
Santander’s seventh homer, his second of the game, tied it at 5 in the seventh.
He became one of 12 players to hit two home runs against Nationals starter Max Scherzer.
“I feel very honored, very happy to face him,” Santander said through a translator. “I’m trying to beat him. He’s trying to beat me. Thankfully, I was fortunate to hit two home runs off of him … He’s definitely one of the best of all time.”
Ruiz’s throwing error on a ground ball by Suzuki in the eighth allowed Soto to score with the go-ahead run.
“That was an unfortunate play,” Hyde said. “Suzuki hit the ball, not a good runner, wasn’t running down the line very hard. Rio, I thought, lost the intensity in his throw. I’m sure he recognized that he had plenty of time and instead of doing his normal routine with catching the baseball, moving his feet and making a strong throw, I thought he let up a little bit.”
Travis Lakins, who walked Soto with one out, was charged with the loss.
Scherzer got the win, pitching seven innings, allowing five runs on eight hits, striking out 10, walking one. He’s 4-0 in seven starts in Baltimore.
Tanner Rainey hit Renato Nuñez to begin the eighth and then Chance Sisco, Severino and Dwight Smith Jr. were called out on strikes.
Daniel Hudson, who struck out two, including pinch-hitter Chris Davis for the second out, got the save.
The Orioles, who equaled a season high with 15 strikeouts, are 12-9. After sweeping two series against the Nationals and Philadelphia, they lost two of three to Washington.
Get out of here!: Home plate umpire Will Little ejected Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long in the bottom of the second. Little dismissed Long with a loud, “Get out of here!”
Starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez, who was sitting under the tent past third base, was also ejected. He was the second Washington starter ejected in the past four days. Stephen Strasburg was thrown out on Thursday at Citi Field.
Hyde follows Maddon’s lead: From 2015-2018, Hyde was a coach under Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, and in each of those years, the Cubs qualified for the postseason.
With the Orioles playing better than expected, and the playoff chatter increasing, Hyde says he’ll try to remember how Maddon handled the pressure.
“I learned a lot from Joe and his style,” Hyde said. “I’d never been in the postseason before I was with Joe in ’15. One thing I got from him is just how consistent he is, how consistent he is through 162 games, and understanding there are waves through the season when you’re playing well, and you’re not playing well. It doesn’t matter if it’s April or September.
“It’s just coming into the clubhouse the same way with the same routine, one-day-at-a-time mentality, no game is bigger than the next. We’re not going to try to get up for this series. We’re not facing this guy, we need to get going.
“It’s just a real consistent mindset and that’s what I’m trying to be with these guys, try to be the same if we’ve lost three in a row than if we won three in a row. I think that’s helpful. It creates a calm in the clubhouse. It allows guys that have never been two games out in the middle of August before … I want them to feel a sense of calm and just go out and play.”