NEW YORK—Through his first six starts, John Means couldn’t put a complete performance together. He’d given up two homers in each of his last three outings and hadn’t gotten through six innings.
In the first of six games played in New York against the Mets and Yankees this week, Means was superb, allowing just a run on three hits in six innings as the Orioles won for the fourth straight time, 11-2, over the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday night.
Means struck out five and walked one, allowing only Jake Marisnick’s home run in the second. He retired 11 straight at one point in picking up his first win since last September 28th.
“It was just staying more relaxed,” Means said in his postgame video conference call. “I forced a lot of things, trying to get strikeouts, trying to blow it by everybody. That’s not how I pitch. That’s not me.”
Manager Brandon Hyde called him into his office for what Means called “a tough talk,” and it helped.
“He told me this isn’t me. This isn’t how I pitch. This isn’t who I should be. I was getting frustrated, I was getting upset and angry with myself. To be able to relax out there and be myself, that really helped me.”
Hyde said he felt the talk was necessary.
“I believe in communication. I believe in being honest,” he said. “I thought we had a nice conversation on what he did well last year, who he is, what kind of pitcher he is, going back to some things that he did very, very well last year. To me, that’s a major league starter in this league for a long time. I felt like he was getting away from that. I wanted to see the poise on the mound that he showed last year.
“I thought he looked really discouraged a lot. I didn’t like his mound presence. I didn’t like his demeanor on the mound. I thought he was pitching out of frustration instead of pitching to win.”
The Orioles improved to 20-21 and, with the Yankees losing for the fifth straight time, 2-1 to Toronto, they’re just one-half game out of the final American League wild-card slot.
The 11 runs equal their Orioles’ season high, but what pleases Hyde is that his players are overcoming difficulties.
“We’ve got a lot of nagging injuries, a lot of nagging things going on in our clubhouse right now,” Hyde said. “And our guys are continuing to push, continuing to play the game the right way. I’m really happy how we played the game tonight, the score, we don’t have many of those type of games.”
Means got more than enough run support. The Orioles hit four home runs, equaling their season high.
DJ Stewart hit his fourth in the last three games, a two-run shot in the second, Ryan Mountcastle hit his fourth, another two-run homer, in the third, and Rio Ruiz hit his eighth, a three-run home run in the fifth. Pat Valaika added his sixth, in the eighth inning.
“These guys come up, they just bring more energy,” Ruiz said of the Orioles’ recent additions.
“It’s fun to build on. You see guys doing well. You see Mounty swinging the bat well, and you just want to continue that, and DJ coming up and getting some big homers. That’s huge.”
In the last three games, the Orioles’ young starters — Keegan Akin, Dean Kremer and Means — have pitched brilliantly.
“The Orioles should be very excited for the future,” Means said. “For the guys coming up, it’s exciting to see those guys pitch. To see guys make their debuts and have that joy of the game, it helps me getting that joy back. I haven’t been having very much fun pitching the last few outings.
“To see those guys go out there the past few outings, they’re happy to be here. They’re joyful. They’re excited to get out on the field. It helps me seeing that.”
Means threw 97 pitches, grappling only in the sixth when he threw 27 pitches and walked his only hitter. His ERA fell from 8.10 to 6.58.
“This is the first time I’ve felt like myself,” Means said. “I just got a slight mentality change, I think [is] what caused me to have everything going tonight. It’s the best I’ve felt all year. Going into summer camp, I didn’t feel like this. It’s nice to get back there.”
Mets starter Michael Wacha gave up five runs, four earned, on seven hits in four innings. Robert Gsellman allowed six runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings.
Besides the home runs, Cedric Mullins had a single, double and triple, driving in Valaika in the fourth after he reached on a two-base error when Marisnick, playing center, muffed his fly ball. Mullins had missed the previous two games with an undisclosed injury.
José Iglesias continued his excellence with two more hits, including an RBI single, to score the 11th run Iglesias is hitting .396.
Travis Lakins pitched a scoreless inning, and Asher Wojciechowski, in his first relief outing of the year, allowed a home run to New York’s Jeff McNeil in the eighth.
Coming up: Jorge López will pitch against Rick Porcello in the final game of the two-game series on Wednesday night at 7:10.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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