BALTIMORE—John Means looked as if he was heading to his fifth win without a loss this season. However, the Orioles’ bullpen coughed up a three-run lead, allowing five runs in a 9-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays before 6,581 at Oriole Park on Wednesday night.
Means, who hadn’t pitched in eight days, left with a 6-3 lead with one out in the seventh, but Tampa Bay (25-19) tagged Adam Plutko. A single by Ji-Man Choi scored Kevin Kiermaier, a fourth run against Means. Randy Arozarena’s second home run of the game, a two-run shot, tied the score at 6.
Paul Fry, who entered the game with a 1.17 ERA, had an awful eighth inning when the Rays scored three to take a 9-6 lead.
“It’s really tough,” Trey Mancini said. “Every time you have a big run with Meansy on the mound, you’re feeling really good, but you’ve got to give credit to the Rays. They put some good at-bats together and got back into the game.”
With one out, Fry (0-1) walked Willy Adames and struck out Mike Zunino. Kiermaier singled to score Adames with the go-ahead run. Fry’s wild pitch allowed Kiermaier to come home, and Arozarena’s double brought home Choi.
“We used the guys that we’ve been using with a lead for the most part,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “An off-night for Plutko and Paul Fry.”
Hyde thought he was going to get a win for Means.
“This one does sting, no doubt,” Hyde said. “Fry hadn’t given up in run since May 2nd and had four straight scoreless outings.
“It just wasn’t meant to be late in the game.”
Ryan Thompson (3-2) pitched a scoreless seventh for the win.
The Orioles (17-25) have lost nine of 11 since Means’ no-hitter in Seattle on May 5th. They’ve yet to win a series at home. In seven series, they’ve lost six and split one.
Means was staked to a 5-0 lead in the second. Mancini hit his eighth home run of the season with two outs in the first. Freddy Galvis led off the second with his fifth home run, and the 100th of his career.
Mancini’s bases-loaded double against Ryan Yarbrough gave the Orioles a five-run lead.
Means allowed two singles through four innings, but walked Zunino, his first walk in three games, with one out in the fifth. Mike Brosseau hit a two-run home run, his fourth homer in 11 career at-bats. Arozarena followed with his fifth, and the Orioles’ lead was cut to 5-3.
“My fastball command wasn’t great tonight,” Means said. “That was the biggest problem, I think, just with everything, was fastball command. especially inside. I wasn’t able to get in there and, when I did, I missed by a couple of inches. I struggled with that, and that opens up everything else.”
Mancini led off the fifth with his second home run of the game, and the Orioles had a 6-3 lead. His five-RBI game equaled his career high, and he leads the majors with 38 RBIs in 42 games.
“If you told me a year ago, I’d be pretty pleased to hear that,” Mancini said.
Mancini missed the 2020 season after colon cancer surgery and chemotherapy.
“I do reflect a lot on last year,” Mancini said. “As much as you try to move on, it’s hard to not look back and say, ‘a year ago today, I was going in for this cycle of treatments. I’d be a three or four right now. Definitely happier to be here in 2021 playing baseball, and it’s something I definitely don’t take for granted.”
After Means struck out Zunino and Kiermaier doubled, Hyde removed Means, who allowed four runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“He was a bulldog again tonight,” Hyde said. “This is a hot team right now. They’re beating us for homers. He gave up a couple, but he left with a lead, and we didn’t hold it for him.”
Pedro Severino’s RBI single against Pete Fairbanks in the ninth cut the Orioles’ deficit to 9-7. Fairbanks retired Maikel Franco on a fielder’s choice to end the game, and he recorded his first save.
Elias on building stars: In his Wednesday video conference, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said he’s happy to see the team build with young stars.
“This is a big reason why we availed all these players of playing time and why we did so in 2019 rather than bring people in that might block some of our interesting players,” Elias said.
“We wanted to let a John Means pitch or let an Austin Hays or a Cedric Mullins get their at-bats and figure it out. In some cases it works, and in some cases it doesn’t. This is what you do when you turn towards your young talent internally.
“Getting successful in the major leagues often takes a lot of time. Not everyone is a superstar from the moment they get out there all the way through the minors and as soon as they play as rookies. These are some of the benefits of the process of where they’re going that we have players on our watch that have blossomed.
“We got these players under contract for many seasons. We plan internally, and we’re absolutely starting to see players that we project to be playoff-caliber starters for the Orioles, and we want to keep those guys going, and you want to build around them and add to them.”