CLEVELAND—When John Means last won a game for the Orioles, they were completing a 110-loss season in 2021. Two games into the 2022 season that turned the franchise around, Means needed Tommy John surgery, and he didn’t return from the April 2022 procedure until September 12th.
In his third post-surgery start, Means pitched 6 2/3 innings hitless innings, and the Orioles reduced their magic number to five.
Means (1-1), who threw a solo no-hitter in Seattle on May 5th, 2021, struck out four, walked one and hit a batter. He didn’t allow a hit until Cleveland’s Andrés Giménez homered on a changeup with two outs in the seventh.
Means was lifted for Yennier Cano after retiring Jose Téna for the first out in the eighth. Means threw 96 pitches in his longest start since the no-hitter.
“I knew it was a possibility, but I was just trying to get outs and get deep in the game,” Means said.
The Orioles’ 2-1 win over the Guardians before an announced crowd of 28,271 at Progressive Field on Saturday night broke a three-game losing streak. Their lead over Tampa Bay in the American League East is still 1 ½ games after the Rays came back to beat Toronto, 7-6. Any combination of Orioles wins and Tampa Bay losses equaling five gives Baltimore its first AL East title since 2014.
“John was exactly what we needed tonight,” catcher James McCann said. “Our bullpen has been stepping up huge for us all season long and they needed a break, and that’s exactly what John did.”
Cano retired the two batters he faced in the eighth. Cionel Pérez pitched a perfect ninth to complete the one-hitter and record his third save.
“That was about as far as I could take him whether he gave up a hit or not,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Going 7 1/3 is absolutely unbelievable.”
Means allowed three runs on five hits in five innings in his first start, a loss to Adam Wainwright and the St. Louis Cardinals, and a run on four hits in five innings in Houston on September 18th.
“I’m pleased to feel like I’ve gotten better every time,” Means said. “Just gotten more and more used to it. Now, I’m feeling I’m right where I want to be.”
McCann has caught two no-hitters, Lucas Giolito’s with the Chicago White Sox on August 25th, 2020, and a five-pitcher n0-hitter with the New York Mets on April 29th, 2022.
“It was probably a batter or two before the homer,” McCann said. “There hadn’t been a lot of hard-hit balls. We’d gotten into the seventh. The way he was commanding the baseball, the way he was attacking, getting ahead of hitters. Ended up giving up only one hit. We were close.”
Gunnar Henderson led off with a walk by Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill (3-7) and advanced to third on Adley Rutschman’s single. Anthony Santander’s double scored Henderson, but Rutschman was thrown out at the plate when Ryan O’Hearn grounded to second.
The Orioles left 12 on base, 11 in the first six innings and finally scored again in the sixth when McCann, Rutschman and Santander all singled, and the Orioles (96-59) led, 2-0.
“I was really hoping we’d get some runs,” Hyde said. “A 2-0 game is not real comfortable. Obviously, I’m aware of what’s happening with him. Love how he’s throwing the ball, but a few more runs would have been nice.
“I was just trying to win the game and that would have been fantastic if something like that would have happened. A close game like that, a game we needed to win. I was trying to figure out a way to win the game.”
McCann was disappointed when he watched Giménez’s home run on but knew he had a game to win.
“It’s deflating for a second, obviously because of the fact that something special, potentially, was going to happen, but at the same, you have a short memory because we’re in a one-run game. We’ve got to get right back after this next hitter.”
It was Means’ first win since September 20th, 2021.
“It’s no secret that the bullpen’s been taxed,” Means said. “Just really wanted to attack the zone today and go deep into the game. Try to get to the sixth, seventh maybe. To get to the eighth, I was happy with it.
“It’s fun. You can’t get this feeling anywhere else. To be back with this team after a win like that is big time.”
Myles Straw walked with two outs in the third. Gabriel Arias was hit by a pitch with two outs in the fifth. Arias left the game with a bruised right wrist.
Quantrill allowed a run on five hits in four innings with four walks and four strikeouts for Cleveland (74-82).
“That guy gets on the mound and he goes,” McCann said about Means. “Defense loves it. Defense is ready. Forces guys to put balls in play, and his tempo is just phenomenal. Him joining us, it would have been nice to have him earlier, but what he’s been able to do coming back has been huge for us.”
Notes: The Orioles have now gone 89 series without being swept, the fourth longest in baseball history. … Shortstop Jackson Holliday and first baseman Coby Mayo both drove in four runs, and rightfielder Kyle Stowers and leftfielder Colton Cowser drove in three as Triple-A Norfolk beat Buffalo, 15-10. The Tides clinched the best record in the International League. Stowers hit two home runs. Holliday and Mayo homered. … Kyle Gibson (14-9, 5.00) will face Triston McKenzie (0-1, 4.50) on Sunday at 1:40 p.m. … Cedric Mullins was 0-for-4, and he’s hitless in his last 17 at-bats. … It was the Orioles’ second one-hitter of the season. Kyle Bradish, Danny Coulombe, Tyler Wells and Félix Bautista combined for a one-hitter at Texas on April 3rd.