BALTIMORE–One of the brightest stars of the Orioles’ season has been left-hander John Means, who pitched a no-hitter on May 5th. On Saturday, Means threw only 29 pitches in the Orioles’ 10-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians, leaving in the first inning because of left shoulder fatigue.
A stunned crowd of 9,969 at Oriole Park watched Means give up two first-inning home runs — the first on the ninth pitch of the game to Cesar Hernandez and the second to Harold Ramirez — and then depart after an Eddie Rosario single. It was at that point that pitching coach Chris Holt came to the mound, followed by manager Brandon Hyde and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel.
“When they called me and Brian out there, your heart stops for a second,” Hyde said. “You never want to see a player get hurt, obviously, and I felt bad for John. I thought for a couple pitches before that there was a little lack of finish on his pitches. His velo was good but felt bad for him.
“I didn’t have concern from an injury standpoint. I just wanted Chris to go out there just to kind of give him a breather because it was kind of a long first. I just wanted to give him a blow right there.”
Means, whose record dropped to 4-2, left with Ebel. Adam Plutko replaced him.
During the second inning, the Orioles announced that Means left the game because of left shoulder fatigue, the same injury that prevented him from starting the 2020 season opener. He’ll have an MRI on Sunday morning.
“I didn’t feel it at all in the bullpen. This is something I’ve been battling the last few weeks,” Means said. “Not really during the games, but after games. I felt it more so in warmups when I was out there, the last couple of pitches … I felt it kind of yank and then every pitch after that, I felt it on the end of extension.”
Means’ dependability and excellence this season has fortified a mostly young and inconsistent pitching staff. His two early runs increased his ERA to 2.28.
“It’s the same thing that I’ve had pretty much every year I’ve been up,” Means said. “I’ve been trying to attack it this year because I’ve known that. It’s not major. It’s not serious. It’s more annoying than anything. I’m going to try to flush it out right now and try to attack some weak areas that are there.”
Besides the no-hitter, Means threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just one hit, at Boston in this year’s opener on April 2nd. He hadn’t pitched fewer than 4 2/3 innings in any start.
Means could be headed to the injured list.
“We just don’t know anything until we get tested tomorrow,” Hyde said. “So right now he’s going to go in for an MRI and we’ll get the results and we’ll know more tomorrow.”
Means missed 12 days last season after the death of his father and worked just 2/3rds of an inning on August 16th, his first start afterward. He rebounded sharply and allowed just one run in each of his final four starts last season.
He has allowed on run or fewer in five of his 12 starts.
Plutko allowed five runs, all but one unearned. in the third. Second baseman Stevie Wilkerson’s one-out error allowed Ahmed Rosario to reach base. After consecutive singles by José Ramirez, Harold Ramirez and Rosario, Cleveland led, 4-1. With two outs, Yu Chang hit a three-run home run, and the Indians (31-25) had a 7-1 lead.
The Orioles (20-38) had their three-game winning streak snapped.
Cedric Mullins equaled his career high with five hits, including home runs in the third and fifth innings. He has eight this season, and he also made a fine catch on Hernandez’s line drive in the fourth, but the story was Means’ injury.
“It was tough,” Mullins said. “It didn’t look like his velo was there. It was a worrisome situation. I hope he’s OK. I haven’t heard any news on anything. I’m hoping for the best.”
Ryan Mountcastle doubled and hit his eighth home run in the sixth. It traveled 447 feet. Mountcastle has home runs in three straight games, and four of the last five.
The Orioles, though, were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. In the eighth, they loaded the bases with none out but DJ Stewart struck out on a pitch out of the strike zone and Maikel Franco popped up on a 2-0 pitch.
Plutko was followed by Travis Lakins, César Valdez and Dillon Tate.
“Give our four guys who came in after him a lot of credit,” Hyde said. “Everybody went two, two-plus innings, trying to keep us there. Got kind of put in a tough spot. All four of these guys I extended further than they’ve been throwing, but it’s the big leagues and these things happen.”
Because the bullpen needed to cover 8 1/3 innings, the Orioles probably will need to make at least one move for Sunday’s game. The team has offdays on Monday and Thursday, and they don’t know what the immediate future is for Means.
Aaron Civale (8-2) allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings for Cleveland.
Notes: Jorge López (1-6, 5.29 ERA) will face Cal Quantril (0-1, 2.08) on Sunday at 1:05 pm. … Rashod Bateman, the Ravens’ top pick in the NFL draft, threw out the first pitch. Bateman is a wide receiver from Minnesota. … This was the sixth time this season the Orioles have allowed 10 or more runs. … Mullins also had a five-hit game on April 4th at Boston. He’s the third player in franchise history with multiple five-hit games in a season.
Mountcastle needs to be more selective: Last season, Mountcastle drew 11 walks and struck out 30 times in 35 games. This year, Mountcastle has struck out 64 times and drawn just seven walks in 53 games.
… That’s something that we talk about with him quite a bit,” Hyde said.
“I’m not talking about walks, but a little bit more selective, especially early in the count, not chasing early in the count, which is going to lead to hitter’s counts, which is going to lead to walks. He’s dangerous in the batter’s box, everybody knows that. But there’s times and there’s at-bats where he just gets away from himself a little bit and gets a little too anxious, a little too quick. That’s why I always talk about middle of the field with him and being able to stay on the ball, just because when he’s not going well, he just gets really, really quick and leaves the strike zone, and when he doesn’t, he’s got a ton of success, so continuing to work with him on it.”