Means and Palmer share Oriole no-hitters and a belief that the team is on the rise - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Means and Palmer share Oriole no-hitters and a belief that the team is on the rise

John Means no-hitter
Photo credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Orioles last made the postseason in 2016, they’ve suffered through four straight losing seasons. Three years ago, they lost 115 games, a franchise worst, and change was in order.

On Wednesday, John Means, who pitched in his first major league game in the final week of that lost 2018 season, threw a spectacular game, the franchise’s sixth no-hitter. He didn’t walk a batter, struck out 12, and threw first-pitch strikes to 26 of the 27 batters. The only runner who reached, Seattle’s Sam Haggerty, came on a wild pitch, and he was thrown out trying to steal.

After that awful 2018, came 108 more losses in 2019, and then incremental improvement in the pandemic-shortened 60-game 2020 season. This year, the Orioles return from a trip to Oakland and Seattle with wins in four of six games and a 15-16 record.

On Friday night, they’ll play the Boston Red Sox in the first of a four-game series, and the Orioles will try for the seventh time to reach the .500 mark.

The season isn’t even 20 percent complete, but Means’ performance and their play on the West Coast has given fans something positive to grasp.

“The last three outs, seeing how the teammates embraced him, our clubhouse after the game, it was like we clinched a playoff spot,” manager Brandon Hyde said after Means completed the no-hitter.

It was just one win, but it’s come from a pitcher who has been sensational in 2021. Means’ ERA in seven starts is 1.37, and he’s become a legitimate front-line pitcher, an ace.

“He’s definitely pitching like one,” Hyde said “There’s no doubt about that. He has pitched like one from September last year through this year. Aces not only give you a chance to win the game, but they go long. They can battle throughout a game. They give bullpens a rest, and they make big pitches in big spots late in a game, and you have a longer leash because of that, and John Means is at that point.”

In Hyde’s three seasons as manager, he’d never allowed a pitcher to even record the second out of the eighth inning, much less complete a game.

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Now that Means has thrown the first no-hitter by a single Oriole pitcher since Jim Palmer on August 13, 1969, is it fair to ask if this could be a pivotal game?

“We just haven’t had a lot to cheer for the last couple of years,” Hyde said.  “These guys haven’t had the opportunity to celebrate a lot of things. Two years ago, it was rough. Staying competitive last year. To watch our guys celebrate, that’s a cool moment because this is a tough game. To watch one of your teammates, your brothers, do something really special, is pretty cool.”

When Palmer pitched his no-hitter in 1969, the Orioles had already won a World Series and were on their way to an easy win in the American League East. He thinks Means’ emergence is key.

“You’ve got to have an ace,” Palmer said after watching Means’ no-hitter.

“Not to say that [former pitching coach] Doug Brocail didn’t do a good job last year, because he did, but his career changed orbit, so to speak, when [current pitching coach] Chris Holt taught him the changeup.”

Palmer sees a team that’s on the rise with draft picks.

“You get [Dean] Kremer in the Manny [Machado] deal. You’ve got the next wave. The future of the Orioles, it’s Adley Rutschman, maybe Heston Kjerstad, Jordan Westburg, all the young players.

“If you want to win, year-in and year-out, it’s nice to have complete teams like I played on, but you want to have good pitching. If you have John Means, and Kremer comes along, and all of a sudden, DL Hall pitches great in his first game, and then Grayson Rodriguez, everybody raves about him, you’ve got [Zac] Lowther and [Keegan] Akin, and I don’t know if Bruce Zimmermann rates stuff-wise with those guys, but you have this new wave of pitching coming, and that’s how you turn franchises around.

“I’m not going to speak for [general manager] Mike Elias, but I think it accelerates if you have great pitching and you have all these young talents, and who knows some of the young guys they got in the [Dylan] Bundy trade, whatever, where they’re going to fall. All of a sudden, you have players to go out and get a Gerrit Cole and get a [Justin] Verlander. That’s how Houston did it.”

Since the rebuild began with the hiring of Elias and Hyde in late 2018, the Orioles have been a team with players who are not well known.

Trey Mancini’s battle with colon cancer created a stir during spring training and early in the season, and Means’ no-hitter might get the national fanbase more familiar with this team.

“It’s about time,” Means said. “I think we have a lot of fun guys to watch. I think we have some great hitters, [Cedric] Mullins, [Austin] Hays, Mancini, and there’s a bunch of them, and a great bullpen, and a great rotation. I think we have a really good team. It’s about time people started to pay attention.”

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. karks

    May 6, 2021 at 7:32 am

    This was such an amazing thing to watch. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better pitching performance. The only way Seattle was going to get a hit would have been sheer luck.

    Means deserves to be on the national stage and get some recognition for the way he’s pitched this year. And there is definitely some positive progress with this team. Right now, at least, nobody is running away with this division. If they can have a big series against Boston, they’re right in the thick of it. I’ll take it!

  2. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    May 6, 2021 at 8:07 am

    Christopher Russo (High Heat Show) interviewed John Means Monday praising him on his success. He asked him if he knew the history of the Orioles great pitching of past teams. Means said he did and praised Scott McGregor for helping him. Russo went on to say how much the Orioles have improved with players like Mullins and others. Nice segment.

  3. G-man

    May 6, 2021 at 8:35 am

    Congratulations to John Means. Means has been very impressive all year. From his opening day start where he gave up one hit in seven innings against the Red Sox to ending Oakland’s 13-game winning streak to his no-hitter, Means has been very dominant, He has allowed six total hits in his last three starts. All coming from a guy who wasn’t highly touted coming through the minors. But he kept working hard, got an opportunity, and has made the most of it. Way to go John Means.

  4. Boog Robinson Robinson

    May 6, 2021 at 8:39 am

    This was certainly the best pitched game I’ve ever seen. And that’s a lot of games. Hopefully, the rest of the staff can feed off this.

    Very exciting day for Bal’more.

  5. Hallbe62

    May 6, 2021 at 10:47 am

    Enjoy the day off Birds. Come out hard & fast Fri. vs. Bosox

  6. Diamondguy

    May 6, 2021 at 11:26 am

    What a great game! 2 months ago, I didn’t think I would say that this year! Hats off to John Means! His hard work is paying off huge for the team. His command was just awesome to watch!!!

  7. WorldlyView

    May 6, 2021 at 3:45 pm

    Are there any tangible explanations as to how an unheralded walk-on at West Virginia University and an 11th-round Draft pick can blossom, in a relatively short period of time, into a masterful, literally unhitable, major league pitcher? Ain’t baseball great?

    • AR-Watch-2021

      May 6, 2021 at 3:55 pm

      Read multiple reports he really improved after being taught a (new?) change up. That’s kind of tangible

  8. AR-Watch-2021

    May 6, 2021 at 3:50 pm

    Okay moving on from the awesome no hitter…
    AR watch 2021 is happy to report Adley reached base twice, single and BB, in five PA yesterday. And turned a 3-6-3 double play too.
    Jahmai Jones JJ watch – quite the 2 game start at AAA 1 2B, 2 3B, 1HR in two games-OPS of 1.778. Quite the improvement over Spring Training performance.
    Lots of good stuff happening in the organization at minors!

    • AR-Watch-2021

      May 6, 2021 at 8:14 pm

      AR Watch 2021 is happy to report that Adley has hit his 1st HR at the AA level tonight and is having an excellent game thus far 2-3 with 2B HR BB and 3 RBI.

    • Icterus fan

      May 6, 2021 at 8:28 pm

      ARwatch, what site are you using to keep up on the activity in the minors? You’re on it.

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