Means ends exceptional April with another strong performance; Mullins, Hays hit back-to-back home runs - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Means ends exceptional April with another strong performance; Mullins, Hays hit back-to-back home runs

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

John Means continued his 2021 excellence on Friday night in Oakland, allowing just two runs on three hits in seven innings as the Orioles beat the Athletics, 3-2, before 5,777 at Oakland Coliseum.

Means (3-0) allowed two solo home runs, and at one point retired 14 straight batters. Despite his dominance, his ERA actually rose from 1.50 to 1.70.

It was second win over Oakland (16-11) in the past five days. On Sunday, he allowed one run on two hits in 6 1/3 innings. He was asked about the difficulty of facing the same team twice in such a short period.

“You just can’t overthink it,” Means said. “You’ve got to stick with the game plan, stick with reading the hitters’ swings and stick with your gut. I think some guys start to overthink sometimes when they face a lineup fourth, fifth, sixth time in a week.

“I stuck with the same game plan. I liked the changeup last time, and I liked it again today.”

In April, Means has allowed just seven runs on 21 hits in six starts. It was his fourth quality start. In those four starts, he gave up just three runs on nine hits in 27 1/3 innings.

“It feels pretty good, but I don’t want to sit back and look at it,” Means said. “I’d like to keep focusing on game-to-game, start-to-start. I’ve got the Mariners next [on Wednesday], and that’s really all I’m worried about.”

Manager Brandon Hyde praised Means’ performance.

“I thought he located extremely well,” Hyde said. “The pitch mix was there, adding and subtracting, pitching to both sides of the plate, pitching unpredictable, and to face a really good team twice in a week is not easy to do. He made some adjustments tonight to them … That’s a tough lineup to face once, and he does it twice in a week.”

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Sean Murphy led off the second with a home run, his fourth, but the Orioles (12-14) took back the lead on back-to-back home runs in the third by Cedric Mullins, his fifth, and Austin Hays, his third, against Mike Fiers (0-1), who was making his season debut.

Means, who threw seven innings for the eighth time in his career, walked one and tied his season high with nine strikeouts.

“I really liked my changeup tonight,” Means said. “I wasn’t a huge fan of my fastball command, to be honest with you. Curveball wasn’t really getting over a whole lot. The slider felt good, too, especially against lefties. I was disappointed with my fastball tonight, but the changeup was the saving grace.”

He gave up a two-out home run to Mitch Moreland, his third, in the seventh, and after Stephen Piscotty grounded out to second, his night was over.

Means’ first baseman, Ryan Mountcastle, enjoyed the experience.

“Pretty easy, you just stand there and he strikes out probably half the batters,” Mountcastle said. “Maybe you’ll have to catch a throw from one of the infielders every now and then, but not very many people get on base, and it’s pretty fun to play behind him.”

Hyde has enjoyed watching Means’ maturity develop.

“I just think he’s completely matured as a major league pitcher, and he’s still continuing to get better,” Hyde said. “He’s got one full year in, and last year was a shortened year. I mean, he doesn’t have a whole lot of major league experience and he’s just improving. He’s improving.

“You’re seeing a pitcher develop at the big league level, and every time out. Last year he was overthrowing, made the adjustment. This year he’s really executing pitches. When he needs to elevate, he elevates. When he needs to dump in a breaking ball he can dump in a breaking ball. He’s still got a changeup. He’s turning into a complete pitcher.”

The Orioles took a 3-1 lead in the fifth on a single by catcher Chance Sisco, a double by shortstop Ramón Urias and an infield out by Mullins.

Reliever Paul Fry recorded two outs in the eighth while walking a batter. Travis Lakins walked one, but retired Jed Lowrie on a fly to Mullins in center to end the inning.

César Valdez, who blew his second save opportunity on Thursday against the New York Yankees, allowed two hits to begin the ninth, but hung on for his sixth save.

“He’s just got moxie and poise and doesn’t seem like any situation rattles him, makes big pitches in spot,” Hyde said. “I pushed him tonight. It was a questionable decision tonight before the game whether he was going to be available, but he told everybody he wants to pitch. It would be nice to score a couple more to give a little bit of breathing room to all of our pitchers.”

The Orioles’ bullpen has a 1.49 ERA in the last 13 games.

Mountcastle had two hits and has hit in five straight, raising his average from .167 to .198.

“I’m starting to feel a little better,” Mountcastle said. “Obviously not the start I wanted to have this year, but I’m taking it day-by-day, and I’m going to keep working hard and keep my head up.”

The Orioles began their six-game West Coast trip with their second consecutive win and are 8-4 on the road.

Notes: Urias broke an 0-for-19 skid. … Second baseman Pat Valaika’s ninth-inning single broke an 0-for-21 slide.. … The Orioles hit consecutive home runs for the second time this year. … Oakland’s Tony Kemp stole a base in the eighth, the first successful stolen base attempt against Sisco this season. He had thrown out the first four runners attempting to steal. … Matt Harvey (2-1, 4.26) will face Jesús Luzardo (1-2, 5.40) on Saturday at 4:07 p.m.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Orial

    May 1, 2021 at 8:02 am

    Means is one “special” pitcher. What makes this outing “special” is that the A’s just saw him 5 days ago(advantage Oakland). Other than Bieber/Cole could we be calling Means the AL’s best. Best lefty maybe? Hope the league isn’t catching up to Valdez’ off speed stuff. Noticed the A’s hitters waiting on their heels for his pitches. I have no problem with leaving him as the closer though(unless he totally implodes)being that the 7th ,8th innings are just as crucial. Like Mountcastle getting 2 hits,like his hustle as he attempted to make it to 3rd BUT he has to realize who’s in CF—Laureano has the AL’s best arm. Side note: has anybody been checking out these major League boxscores(yeah some of us old-timers still look at them) and noticed these dreadful BA’s?

  2. Orioles20

    May 1, 2021 at 8:19 am

    Means continue to be the ace. The bottom of the order continues to do nothing. Mountcastle is heating up. Taking better at bats. Mullins is carrying this team. Teams are starting to figure out Valdez. If you look at the teams that have seen him multiple times they’re the ones that give him trouble because they know they aren’t going to get anything but a changeup so the opposing hitters just wait him out for a mistake pitch. We need Harvey back to be the closer

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 1, 2021 at 10:55 am

    Good to see Urias heating up. I’m rooting for him.

    Mountcastle … not sure why everybody is so bent out of shape regarding his start to the season. That’s baseball. Unless the name is Carew or Gwynn, they’re going to have extended cold spells on occasion. But the key is to keep the faith, and write their name on the lineup card every day. I’m not saying this kid’s cold spell is over, but my guess is that he’ll be hitting right around .300 by the all star game. I’m looking forward to O’s 1st rookie of the year award since I can’t remember who was last?

    • CalsPals

      May 1, 2021 at 11:07 am

      1989, Greg Olson…go O’s…

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 1, 2021 at 11:15 am

        10-4 … I was wondering who was going to look that up for me. 🙂

    • Bhoffman1

      May 1, 2021 at 1:09 pm

      Tell me please what Urias is heating up.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 1, 2021 at 1:56 pm

        His seat on the bench?

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        May 1, 2021 at 3:20 pm

        Hopefully a seat on the end of Norfolk’s bench.

      • orf_nac_slaPslaC

        May 1, 2021 at 4:50 pm

        Huh, he has 2 hits in his last 4 ABs…oh yeah it’s Urias so you two hate him no matter what.

      • orf_nac_slaPslaC

        May 1, 2021 at 5:08 pm

        Urias! Instigator of the Orioles 6 run 3rd!!! Heater upper of moms, sisters, and cousins who dig the Orioles!!!

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          May 1, 2021 at 7:01 pm

          Is that you Richard?

          And to think I didn’t even make light of your mistake in your comment below as you have done mine in the past.

          I quote: “set you up with a save opportunity today to you celebrate!”

          Got grammer? Go away little boy.

    • Bhoffman1

      May 1, 2021 at 4:11 pm

      Oh thought some gourmet tacos to rival Boogs barbecue

  4. Papagreen

    May 1, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    So if he keeps shining and we think he is the real deal what’s the chances of management negotiating a long term deal to keep him or do we go down the usual path of using Means on the cheap, go through a couple of arbitrations, then say so long?

    • Shamus

      May 1, 2021 at 1:36 pm

      He’s a keeper

      • Birdman

        May 1, 2021 at 2:56 pm

        He should be, but we still don’t know if and when this ownership will be willing to loosen the purse strings.

    • Shamus

      May 1, 2021 at 3:40 pm

      When Davis is off the books and the young core starts to come through… 2023

  5. orf_nac_slaPslaC

    May 1, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    Happy 27th Birthday Dillon Tate!

    May the Orioles and Mgr Hyde set you up with a save opportunity today to you celebrate!

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 1, 2021 at 1:57 pm

      Nice 2nd sentence. Going to get you DFA’ed.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 1, 2021 at 1:59 pm

      Nice 2nd sentence. May get you DFA’ed.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      May 1, 2021 at 4:21 pm

      DFA? 🙂

    • dlgruber1

      May 1, 2021 at 4:42 pm

      C’mon, you’re slipping. I thought after yesterday’s statistical comparison between starting pitchers that that was gonna become an every game thing. BTW, excellent prediction with the 2-1 score yesterday.

    • CalsPals

      May 1, 2021 at 8:00 pm

      Or FRO’ed…LMAO…go O’s…

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