BALTIMORE—The hottest team in baseball was no match for Oriole starter John Means on Sunday. He held the Oakland A’s to two hits and one run in 6 1/3 innings while Austin Hays hit two home runs in an 8-1 rout that ended the Athletics’ 13-game winning streak before 8,107 at Oriole Park.
The Athletics had the longest winning streak in Major League Baseball since Cleveland won 22 straight in 2017, but Means gave them little to hit.
Means (2-0) allowed Ramón Laureano’s third home run in the fourth after giving up a single to Stephen Piscotty in the second. He struck out six and walked three.
“He was exceptional today,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That is a really good lineup, and for him to have the stuff that he had and to get into the seventh inning, really impressive.”
In eight of his last nine starts, dating back to last September, Means has allowed one or fewer runs.
“It was nice finishing the season strong and going into this season with confidence and getting back to who I am as a pitcher,” Means said. “I feel very comfortable right now.”
On April 1st, Means opened the season with seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball at Boston’s Fenway Park for his first win. On April 18th, he allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings. On Sunday, he lowered his ERA to 1.50.
“I know that he expects a lot out of himself. He’s hard on himself at times,” Hyde said. “The way he’s throwing the baseball right now, you feel good about your chances when John Means is on the mound.”
After Laureano’s home run, Means walked Matt Chapman, then retired eight straight before walking Chapman again. Hyde removed him after 101 pitches, the most for an Oriole pitcher this season.
The Orioles (9-12) won for just the second time this season at home. They’re 2-8.
Hays homered to center against Jesús Luzardo with two outs in the second, his first. In the fourth, with Ryan Mountcastle on first, Hays homered to right-center for a 3-1 lead.
It was Hays’ first multi-home run game since September 23, 2019, and the first multi-home run game for the Orioles in 2021. He wanted to talk about Means, though.
“He was really pitching in well and setting up his offspeed stuff,” Hays said about Means. “That’s a great lineup, and there weren’t a lot of comfortable at-bats for them.”
Cedric Mullins had three singles in his first three at-bats, but he was picked off in the first inning and was forced out to end the third. In the fifth, he singled with two outs, and Trey Mancini, who was the designated hitter, walked before Maikel Franco struck out, ending the inning.
The Orioles pulled away in the eighth with five runs. Franco led off with a home run, his third of the season, for a 4-1 lead. Deolis Guerra walked Mountcastle, who’s 1-for his last 27, Hays and Ramón Urías, and then walked Ryan McKenna to score Mountcastle. It was McKenna’s first career run batted in.
Oakland shortstop Elvis Andrus fumbled Mullins’ grounder for an error, scoring Hays, and Mancini’s two-run single made it 8-1.
The Orioles had scored just three runs in their last three games and been shut out twice in the last week.
“You hope that something like this kicks our offense and gets us going,” Hays said.
Hays returned from the injured list on Tuesday. He had missed three weeks because of a right hamstring strain.
“I felt good the first couple of days in Miami, and then I felt like I was trying to do too much,” Hays said. “I was a little bit out of control for some reason, and then things were speeding up on me for some reason.
“Before my last at-bat last night, I was talking to Cedric in the dugout, and I told him I felt like I wasn’t seeing the ball that well, and he was like, ‘you just try walking up to the plate a little bit slower. All your stuff you do before, just slow it down.
“I saw the ball a lot better in my last at-bat last night and then I felt very comfortable today. It’s definitely good to talk to the guys that are hitting .350 because there’s something they’re doing right.”
Adam Plutko relieved Means in the seventh and retired the two batters he faced. Paul Fry pitched a spotless eighth.
Because the Orioles blew open the game in the bottom of the inning, Zac Lowther got to make his major league debut in the ninth. The 24-year-old left-hander allowed a hit in a scoreless inning and ended the game by striking out Chapman.
“Very cool moment,” Hyde said. “I was pumped to watch him on the mound, and he didn’t disappoint.”
In Hyde’s three seasons with the Orioles, their longest winning streak has been six games. He marveled at Oakland’s 13-game run.
“That would be nice,” Hyde said. “You see how loose they are in their dugout, and rightly so. When you win for two weeks in a row, you feel like you’re never going to lose again. I’d like to have that feeling someday.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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