BALTIMORE—The Orioles hoped starting pitcher John Means would have an even better second year after he won 12 games in his first.
That hasn’t turned out to be the case.
Means, who finished second in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2019, continued to give up home runs, and the Orioles lost to the New York Mets, 9-4, Wednesday afternoon at Camden Yards.
Michael Conforto, who drove in five runs, hit a two-run home run in the first inning, and Pete Alonso hit a long home run in the sixth.
Alonso’s home run landed in the second deck in left field, just the fifth ball in 29 seasons at Oriole Park. It was the first since Cleveland’s Edwin Encarnacion hit one there on June 20, 2017.
The home run pitch was the last one Means threw. He went 5 1/3 innings, longer than he had in five previous starts, and allowed four runs on eight hits.
Means said his changeup is “better than it’s been.” He also said, “the fastball command was horrible. That’s the worst fastball command I’ve ever had.”
Means has given up two home runs in each of his last three starts. His ERA is 8.10.
“The body feels good,” he said. “I’m confident I can fix the fastball command. I don’t see it being an issue for very long.”
Means has four or perhaps five starts remaining this season.
“Ending the season with the fastball command that I want, that’s the key,” he said. “The changeup would have been a lot better if I had a fastball today.”
Last year, Pedro Severino caught the majority of Means’ starts, and he’s been behind the plate for four of Means’ six starts this season.
“It’s not even close,” Severino said when asked for a comparison of the 2019 Means with this year’s version. “Nothing worked today.”
Severino led off the second with a triple to center, the first of the career. New York centerfielder Jake Marsinick hit the wall hard but remained in the game.
Leftfielder Ryan Mountcastle singled to score Severino. With two outs, Pat Valaika singled, and Andrew Velazquez was walked by Michael Wacha to load the bases. Wacha hit centerfielder Cedric Mullins with a pitch to force home Mountcastle and tie the score at 2.
Means walked Amed Rosario to begin the fifth. He scored on Conforto’s double.
David Peterson, a rookie starter, entered the game in relief in the fourth and allowed just two singles and two walks in four scoreless innings.
The Orioles left six runners on in the second, third and fourth innings.
“We squandered some offensive opportunities early to get a lead there,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We had the right guys up … Then Peterson came in and shut us down completely, and the game stalled for us.”
Rosario led off the seventh with a single against Travis Lakins and, with one out, he hit J.D. Davis with a pitch.
Cole Sulser, whom Hyde moved out of the closer’s role after two losses in last weekend’s series with the Toronto Blue Jays in Buffalo, came in to face Conforto, who doubled to right to score Rosario. Left-handers had been 1-for-30 against Sulser.
Sulser allowed a leadoff double to another left-handed hitter, Robinson Cano, in the eighth. Cano scored on Marisnick’s one-out single. With two outs, another left-handed hitter, Jeff McNeil ,doubled to score Alonso, and Sulser left trailing 7-2.
Marisnick scored on a passed ball by Severino. Conforto’s bloop to short put the Orioles down, 9-2.
Sulser was charged with four runs, one unearned, in 1 1/3 innings. His ERA is now 5.94.
“I still believe in his stuff,” Hyde said. “I like the guy.
“He’s still trying to figure out some things command-wise. I think you saw that again today.”
Miguel Castro, who was traded by the Orioles to the Mets on Monday, made his Mets debut and pitched a scoreless eighth.
The Orioles, who are 4-12 in their last 16 games, fell to 16-20.
Odds and ends: Renato Núñez left the game in the seventh inning. He ran slowly to first on a ground ball and walked gingerly off the field in the fifth. Hyde said he has a sore hamstring and will be day-to-day … Núñez was replaced by Dilson Herrera, whose contract was selected by the Orioles on Tuesday. Herrera is the 41st player used by the Orioles this season …. José Iglesias has a 10-game hitting streak and a seven-game multi-hit streak.
2020 schedule critique: Hyde is not partial to the Orioles ‘ 2020 schedule, which has them playing 40 games against the American League East and 20 games against the National League East. It was based on trying to limit the players’ travel because of the coronavirus.
In the last month of the season, the Orioles play exclusively in the Northeast and between now and September 13th, they play only the Mets and Yankees.
“It’s definitely easier, travel-wise, that’s for sure,” Hyde said. “Do I like it better? No, I don’t think so.
“I wish our rosters would be expanded in September. I do like seeing other uniforms. I think we have the toughest schedule in the game. We’re playing playoff teams night in and night out. I think that’s making guys better for the future, honestly.
“I would like to play other people. I don’t want to play the same people over and over again. I’d like to play the Central or the West. I don’t want to play the East all the time.
“We’ve been competitive, and I want to stay competitive though September.”
Brach returns: Relief pitcher Brad Brach came back to Baltimore for the first time since he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in July 2018. Since leaving the Orioles, he’s been with Atlanta, the Chicago Cubs, and now the Mets.
Brach was with the Orioles from 2014-2018 and was 27-15 with a 2.99 ERA and 33 saves.
Often overlooked as part of a superb bullpen that included Zack Britton and Darren O’Day, Brach was selected for the American League All-Star team in 2016.
In the time since he left, the entire organization has been remade, but it still feels like home to him.
”Even though the names are different and the teams are different, the stadium’s still the same,” Brach said. “The memories you have of this place, I know for me personally that was the biggest chunk of my career to this point, and definitely the most exciting years of my career. And those feelings will never go away. Those experiences will never go away. I think, honestly, with time they get even sweeter and they get even better.
Brach and his wife, who was pregnant with twins, tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this summer. Everyone is fine now.
Coming up: The Orioles will play the Yankees in a four game series at Camden Yards, starting with a doubleheader on Friday. Both games are seven innings, and the first will begin at 5:05 p.m. The Orioles have lost 18 consecutive games to the Yankees.
Alex Cobb and Jorge López will be Friday’s pitchers.
Keegan Akin will pitch on Saturday night, and Sunday’s starter has yet to be announced.
The Yankees haven’t announced pitchers for the series.
Question time: I’ll be answer Orioles questions next week, so either leave them in the comments below or send them to: [email protected].