Since John Means threw a no-hitter on May 5th, the Orioles have played 16 games. They’ve won just two of them. Means hasn’t won any of his three starts since then, though he’s pitched well enough to win each of them.
On Monday night, Means gave up two solo home runs and, after a 45-minute rain delay and a two-run home run by DJ Stewart, he had a 3-2 lead and an excellent chance for his fifth win.
In the bottom of the eighth, Tanner Scott, César Valdez and Tyler Wells allowed six runs, and a winnable game turned into a seventh straight loss, the 14th in 16 games, 8-3 to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
The loss to the Twins (18-29) leaves the Orioles (17-30) with the worst record in baseball.
“After a loss like that, it’s pretty quiet,” Means said about the clubhouse. “We approach every day with a lot of energy. We come to the field with a lot of energy, ready to win, ready to compete. I still think this team’s in a good place … We just can’t get that one win to get us going.”
Stewart hit his third home run against Jorge Alcala (1-1) with Trey Mancini on base for a 3-2 lead in the eighth.
Scott (2-3) walked Andrelton Simmons to begin the eighth, and Simmons moved to second on a wild pitch. Nelson Cruz struck out. Kyle Garlick singled, and Simmons took third.
Valdez replaced Scott, and Josh Donaldson’s sacrifice fly scored Simmons to tie it at 3. Alex Kiriloff singled, and Mitch Garver doubled to score Garlick and Kiriloff, and the Orioles trailed, 5-3.
Miguel Sano singled to score Garver, and Tyler Wells came in with the Orioles trailing 6-3. Wells allowed singles to Rob Refsnyder, a single to Trevor Larnach that scored Galvis, and Simmons singled to score Refsnyder — and it was a six-run inning.
“It’s really disappointing,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’re really struggling out of the bullpen. We’ve got one guy that’s throwing the ball well right now, Paul Fry, and he was down today. We need some dudes to step up and get some outs for us.”
Scott pitched well 2020, appearing to finally gain control of his slider and high-90s fastball. But he has regressed this season, walking 17 batters in 18 1/3 innings. Valdez had batters off-balance early in the season with his assortment of changeups but has allowed six runs in his last 5 2/3 innings. In short, the bullpen isn’t providing relief.
“We threw the ball really good out of the bullpen the first month of the year,” Hyde said. “We’ve just had a really tough May.”
Fry threw two innings at Washington on Sunday, so Hyde didn’t want to use him on Monday.
“Hopefully, these guys can turn it around and get some outs like they were the first month of the year. Right now, it’s very, very challenging.”
Means allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings. He struck out five without walking a batter. It was the fifth time Means has pitched seven innings or more and the fourth time he didn’t walk a batter.
“I felt OK. I wasn’t getting ahead as much as I hoped,” Means said.
Larnach hit a 446-foot home run in the third. Garlick homered in the sixth.
“Two solo homers in seven innings. He was awesome,” Hyde said. “You win those games when he pitches like that, and we didn’t.”
The Orioles’ first run came in the first when Anthony Santander’s double scored Cedric Mullins, who was walked by Matt Shoemaker to begin the game. Mullins stole second.
In the seventh, the Orioles had their next best chance to score. Mullins singled with two outs and tried to score on Freddy Galvis’ double to right. A perfect relay from Garlick to Nick Gordon to catcher Mitch Garver nailed Mullins.
Hyde appealed the play because he thought that Garver didn’t allow Mullins a path to the plate. The call was upheld.
Shoemaker (3-5) allowed one run on six hits in six innings.