NEW YORK—There wasn’t another masterpiece for John Means, only another effective performance. Six days after Means’ near-perfect game against the Seattle Mariners, he returned and threw six shutout innings, allowing six hits.
However, Means’ continued magnificence was wasted as César Valdez allowed two runs in the bottom of the ninth, and the Orioles lost, 3-2, to the New York Mets before 7,930 at Citi Field on Tuesday night.
Valdez entered the game with eight saves and a 1.23 ERA and left it with three blown saves and an ERA that nearly doubled to 2.40.
Kevin Pillar led off the ninth with a long drive to left field that was originally called a home run but, after a conference by the umpires, was called foul.
Pillar then hit a hard shot to third that Rio Ruiz couldn’t come up with, and it was ruled a single. Jonathan Villar followed with a single, but James McCann struck out. Dominic Smith singled to right center on a ball that Austin Hayes tried to catch with a dive, and was backed up by Cedric Mullins. It scored Pillar with the tying run and, when second baseman Ramón Urías made a late relay throw home, he threw wide of catcher Pedro Severino, allowing Villar to advance to third.
Pinch-hitter Patrick Mazeika grounded to first, and Trey Mancini’s throw home was high and not in time to get Villar. It left the stunned Orioles with a 16-20 record.
“He’s been consistent all year,” Means said of Valdez. “He’s been one of the best closers in baseball, and he just left a couple of pitches up, and it happens.”
Jeurys Familia (1-0) worked the ninth to get the win for the Mets (17-13).
Means lowered his ERA to 1.21 after he struck out three and walked none in throwing 74 pitches. He has pitched 15 straight scoreless innings.
“My pitch count was probably limited today anyway,” Means said. “I felt OK. I thought my fastball command wasn’t great. I liked what my changeup was doing, but that was it. I made pitches when I needed to, especially inside. Fastball command, I just left a couple over that got hit pretty hard, but other than that, I felt pretty good.”
Means’ thoughts of a second no-hitter ended quickly. Jeff McNeil singled on the fourth pitch of the game.
“I wasn’t thinking about it too much, to be honest with you,” Means said. “I was just trying to get another good outing out of the way and move on. I wasn’t hanging on it, but after the first one, you almost take a sigh of relief and just go back to not thinking about it and just pitching.”
McNeil had a second hit in the third but pulled up short of second base and left the game with body cramps.
In the fourth, Means allowed two-out singles to Pete Alonso and Pillar, but Villar popped to second to end the inning.
José Peraza, who replaced McNeil, singled to start the sixth. Francisco Lindor followed with a single. Michael Conforto bounced into a force play. Means ended the inning by getting Alonso to pop out and Pillar on a fly to center.
The Orioles did little against Marcus Stroman for six innings. Mullins led off the game with a single. He moved to third when Villar booted Austin Hays’ grounder. Mullins was tagged out in a rundown when Mancini grounded back to Stroman.
After Pedro Severino singled with two outs in the second, Stroman retired 13 of 14 batters. He walked Severino in the fifth.
The Orioles scored in the seventh when Freddy Galvis and Maikel Franco began the inning with singles. Franco had been 3-for-43. Ruiz moved them up with a sacrifice bunt. Severino was walked intentionally, and Hyde decided to bat DJ Stewart for Means.
“We’re not scoring a ton of runs, so we’re trying to scratch one across there and try to get the lead,” Hyde said.
“I figured that was probably going to be the move with the bases loaded,” Means said. “We needed the run. It was a close ballgame. I completely understand it. Obviously, the competitor in me wants to go back out there, but logistically, it just didn’t make sense.”
New York manager Luis Rojas replaced Stroman with left-hander Aaron Loup, and Hyde countered with right-handed hitter Pat Valaika, who hit a long drive to right, enabling Galvis to score.
Hays led off the eighth with a drive to center that Albert Almora Jr. nearly caught but dropped when he hit the wall face first going full speed. Hays raced to third as Almora fell to the ground, where he stayed for a few minutes.
Almora finally walked off the field (X-rays on Almora’s shoulder and neck came back negative). Trevor May struck out Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle, who chased a neck-high pitch. Galvis got Hays home, though, with a perfectly placed bunt single that surprised Villar at third. It gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Adam Plutko pitched a scoreless seventh and walked pinch-hitter Tomás Nido to begin the eighth. After he struck out Peraza, Tanner Scott walked Lindor. Conforto singled but Scott got out of the inning when Alonso grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.
Notes: Matt Harvey (3-2, 3.60 ERA) will face Tajuan Walker (2-1, 2.38) on Wednesday afternoon at 12:10 pm. … Galvis is hitting .367 (22-for-60) over his last 18 games. … The Mets had 10 singles and no extra-base hits.