BALTIMORE — Orioles starter John Means admittedly didn’t have his best command.
After a shaky start, he still pitched well enough to keep the Orioles in position for a much-needed win.
However, the Orioles’ late comeback fell short after Kyle Seager hit an RBI double in the eighth inning that gave the Seattle Mariners a 4-3 victory in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday evening at Camden Yards. The Orioles lost for the sixth time in seven games since opening the season with a three-game sweep in Boston.
“I just didn’t execute the game plan early,” Means said. “I wasn’t coming after them, I wasn’t locating well, I just wasn’t pitching like myself. And I just kind of locked it in. I knew what I needed to do, I just wasn’t able to do it those first couple innings. Once I got past those, I just got with [catcher Pedro Severino] and we got back to the game plan.”
Means allowed just one run or fewer in each of his last six starts dating back to last season — two games shy of the franchise record set by Hall-of-Famer Jim Palmer. This time, Means ran into some trouble early, allowing solo home runs to Ty France and Tom Murphy in the first and second innings.
“I thought he settled in nicely after the second inning,” manager Brandon Hyde said about Means. “Early on he hung a changeup to France and didn’t have his best breaking balls early, but kept us in the game and put up some zeros after that. A little more aggressive in the strike zone, locating better after the first couple innings. Gave up three runs, pitched into the sixth, we just didn’t score.”
The Orioles’ pitching staff has allowed 16 home runs in 10 games. Means and rookie Bruce Zimmermann are the only starters to throw at least six innings.
An RBI single by Mitch Haniger gave the Mariners a 3-0 lead in the second and prompted a visit by Orioles pitching coach Chris Holt. From there, Means settled down and retired 10 consecutive batters before Seager walked to open the sixth, ending Means’ day.
He was charged with three runs on five hits. He struck out five and walked two.
“I hate starting the game off like that,” Means said. “It’s just a lack of momentum on my part. Just come out and give up three runs in two innings, I need to attack more and just get the game going a little bit on a better note. I’m obviously happy with how I bounced back. The last thing I needed there was to let it get even worse.”
Travis Lakins, who was recalled from the alternate training site in Bowie to serve as the 27th man for the doubleheader, had two strikeouts in one inning after replacing Means.
Orioles centerfielder Cedric Mullins entered the game with 17 hits — tied with Boston’s J.D. Martinez and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr. for most in Major League Baseball. Mullins went 1-for-3 and has managed at least one hit in all 10 games this season.
Seattle left-hander Justus Sheffield kept the Orioles from hitting the ball past the infield until the fifth when Severino and Ryan Mountcastle flew to center. Ramon Urias’ followed with an opposite-field two-run homer that pulled the Orioles to within 3-2.
Mountcastle hit a two-out double in the seventh and scored on a single by D.J. Stewart off Seattle closer Rafael Montero that tied the game, 3-3.
Seager hit a one-out double to center off Tanner Scott (0-1) that scored Mitch Haniger, who opened the eighth inning as the automatic runner on second base. The Orioles were retired in order in the bottom half of the eighth. Only seven innings are played in doubleheaders.
“Our plan against [Sheffield] was we needed to see the ball up, needed to see it up, out over the plate, and he just kept feeding us sliders down, especially early in the count, a lot of weak outs,” Hyde said. “We’ve got to do a better job with our approach standpoint up and down the order to make it a little bit easier on ourselves.”
Hays on mend: Orioles outfielder Austin Hays is recovering from a right hamstring injury and should be available to begin playing intrasquad games at the team’s alternate training site in Bowie in the next few days, Hyde said.
“Hopefully, that goes well and we’ll see him sometime shortly after that,” Hyde said.
Hays strained the hamstring on April 4th in Boston when he dove back into second base on a bloop single by Cedric Mullins that initially appeared to be caught.
Hays has been hampered by injuries in his short career.
Last season, he missed a month after being hit in the ribs by a pitch. In the past, Hays also has dealt with injuries to his thumb, ankle and shoulder.
After coming off the Injured List on September 14th from the rib injury, he hit .377/.404/.585 (20-for-53) with three home runs and 12 runs scored.
The Orioles are hoping he can find the same success this season.