BALTIMORE—For their final home Sunday afternoon game, the Orioles started John Means and, with Cedric Mullins resting a sore hamstring, they hoped for the best.
Means wasn’t sharp, needing 108 pitches, the second-most this season, to struggle through five innings, He left trailing 3-2.
The Orioles’ offense wasn’t sharp, either, getting just four hits, nor was their bullpen or defense. The 7-4 loss to the Texas Rangers before an announced crowd of 13,495 at Oriole Park gave them a split of the four-game series with Texas (56-99).
Texas starter Dane Dunning allowed just one hit in 4 2/3 innings, a two-run home run by Anthony Santander in the fourth, and it tied the game at 2. Dunning walked five and hit a batter.
Nathaniel Lowe singled with one out in the fourth, and Andy Ibañez’s seventh home run gave Texas a 2-0 lead.
Leony Taveras singled to begin the fifth. With one out, Isiah Kiner-Falefa grounded to second. Pat Valaika flipped the ball to shortstop Richie Martin, who forgot to cover second, and both runners were safe. A double by Adolis Garcia scored Taveras, and Texas led, 3-2.
Means (6-8) struck out eight without walking a batter. It was the most strikeouts by an Oriole starter since Jorge López struck out eight on June 12th.
“It was not a very sharp outing,” Means said. “I wasn’t getting ahead. The changeup was good early, and then I lost it late, and I had to go with the curveball, which already sucked as it was. Just had to grind through that.”
Means will get a final start next weekend in Toronto. His season will be remembered mostly for his May 6th no-hitter. He has only two wins in 18 starts since then, but his 3.32 ERA is excellent.
“I’m happy with most of it,” Means said of 2021. “Grinding my through some rough parts and also it clicked there for a while. It’s been tale of two changeups. I had the changeup for the first half and did well, then I lost the changeup. Once the pitch was on, and it was on today until it wasn’t, I was all right. That’s really what happened this season.”
Manager Brandon Hyde knows that as the changeup goes, so goes Means.
“Just a little bit inconsistent for him,” Hyde said. “The last couple of starts, he was getting better. I thought he showed some flashes of it today. Unfortunately, we didn’t score many runs for him, either, but I thought he really competed today.”
Texas added a run against Eric Hanhold in the seventh on a run-scoring single by Kiner-Falefa.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Orioles (50-106) had their best chance to remain competitive. Pedro Severino walked against Jharel Cotton (2-0). Valaika struck out. Kelvin Gutiérrez singled, and Mullins, whose hamstring has kept him from starting the last two games, pinch-hit for Martin.
Mullins’ dropped a short pop to right against Dennis Santana, which fell in front of Adolis Garcia, who threw to second to force Gutiérrez. Jahmai Jones ran for Mullis, and Ryan McKenna struck out to end the inning.
Texas added three runs in the eighth on a two-run triple by Willie Calhoun and an RBI double by Charlie Culberson for a 7-2 lead.
Severino hit a two-run home run in the ninth, his 11th, and after Kolby Allard walked Jones with two outs, Joe Barlow struck out McKenna for his ninth save.
Just as Texas manager Chris Woodward walked to the mound to change pitchers, many fans erupted with loud cheers, not for the Orioles, but for Justin Tucker’s record-setting 66-yard, game-winning field goal for the Ravens. Those who weren’t watching on their phones got to watch on the scoreboard a moment later.
Notes: Santander left the game after eight innings because of leg discomfort, according to Hyde. He jogged down to first base after making the final out of the eighth. Santander missed three games this past week because of soreness in his left hamstring. Santander’s home run was his 18th, and the 13th straight at home. … Severino’s home run was his first since August 26th. … Bruce Zimmermann (4-4, 4.83) is expected to be activated from the 60-day injured list to start on Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox. Chris Sale (5-0, 2.57) will start for the Red Sox. Zac Lowther (1-2, 7.66 ERA) will face Nathan Eovaldi (10-9, 3.88) onWednesday. Alexander Wells (1-3, 7.61) is scheduled to pitch for the Orioles on Thursday. Boston hasn’t named its pitcher.