What they're saying about John Means' dominance in Orioles' 2-1 win over Reds - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

What they’re saying about John Means’ dominance in Orioles’ 2-1 win over Reds

Photo Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

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CINCINNATI–What happened? John Means was dominant in his first start of the season, allowing three hits in seven scoreless innings in a 2-1 Orioles win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

Means struck out eight and didn’t walk a batter. It was just his fifth start since his April 2022 Tommy John surgery. He had a sore elbow that caused the Orioles to omit him from last October’s Division Series and they delayed the start of his season until now.

“That was unbelievable,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I know he feels amazing right now … That was way more than we anticipated and expected and shows you the competitor Meansy is and how off balance he can keep big league hitters. His changeup was fantastic.”

Craig Kimbrel blew his third save opportunity in his last four games, but Means was rescued by Yennier Cano, who recorded the last two outs with the bases loaded for his first save.

Jorge Mateo and Adley Rutschman homered.

It was the Orioles’ fifth win in six games. They’ve allowed five runs in those wins. Three were shutouts, and they’re 22-11.

“They’re coming out and they’re executing game plans,” catcher James McCann said. “The game plans are good right now and the execution might be even better. Our offense hasn’t quite put up the runs we probably should be putting up, but sometimes you’ve got to tip your cap to the other pitcher, too. The fact that we’ve been able to grind out some of these wins is big.”

What did Means think of his initial start? There’s no doubt that Means is an excellent pitcher, but because of injuries, he won just his 22nd major league game on Saturday night. It was one of his best.

“I felt pretty, pretty good,” Means said. “This team is playing pretty well. You just want to join them. You want to feel that energy that they’re feeling. To be back and feel that is absolutely incredible.”

Means, like his staffmates, has pitched extraordinarily well this week.

“Just locating well,” Means said. “James called a great game back there. I maybe shook [him off] one time the whole time. He did such a great job to create that for me.”

Means felt great after he retired his first three hitters.

“You want get that first one out of the way, the first inning,” he said. “First inning felt pretty good, then started to settle in a little bit after the second and third and getting some swings I’d like to see.”

It’s been just over two years since the Tommy John surgery, and Means would like to be able to pitch without thinking about it.

“I definitely hope so,” he said. “I just want to take it day-by-day and help this team win.”

What made Means so good? Means had an unsightly earned-run average of 8.68 in his six rehab starts at Triple-A Norfolk. In his final rehab start last Sunday, Means allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings, a really good sign.

“I really had no idea what to expect from him,” Hyde said. “That last start there gave him the confidence to pitch up here again. You’re on the road. This is a bandbox. You don’t know what’s going to happen. That was an unbelievable effort.”

McCann caught Means in his start in Cleveland last September when he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. McCann thought Means’ stuff was better than it was then.

“He was using all four pitches,’ McCann said. “I know he didn’t give up any hits in Cleveland. I think stuff-wise tonight might have been a little bit better.”

McCann has caught Means and watched his Tommy John recovery. .

“Coming back from injuries is never easy,’ McCann said. “When you’re diagnosed with it, you know you’re staring at a full season-plus. Staying mentally tough and mentally strong for that isn’t easy, so tip your cap for him for grinding through that. Coming out tonight is a great way to rejoin the team.”

What is the issue with Kimbrel? Kimbrel failed to convert two save opportunities last weekend against Oakland, the second on Sunday when he lost the game and left it with upper back tightness.

He struck out the side on Friday night but allowed three of his four batters to reach and needed Cano to rescue him.

“Nothing really sticks out,” McCann said. “He’s been doing it for a really long time. He’s one of those guys you have trust in, regardless. There’s no doubt when you look down and see him warming up. Tonight, it didn’t go his way, but I don’t think anyone in that locker room doubts his ability or doubts how big he is or how important he is to this team.”

Why has Henderson had such a good start? Gunnar Henderson won April’s Player of the Month. His reason for the successful start?

“I feel like just hitting the ball hard,” he said. “The exit velo, I don’t know what that is, but I’m taking good swings at the ball and swinging at good pitches most of the time. Whenever I hit them, I try to hit them hard.”

What’s happening with two offdays? The Orioles play at the Washington Nationals on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Monday and Thursday, the Orioles will be off, which doesn’t trouble Hyde.

“It’s welcome. I’m not going to turn down offdays to give guys extra rest,” Hyde said. “I think it’s going to be great. We had a lot in April (four), probably too many for me. Looking forward to an offday Monday. The [second] offday with the Nationals series is kind of strange but does allow our guys to have a couple of days off next week.”

Hyde hasn’t announced his pitchers for the Nationals series, but Corbin Burnes and Kyle Bradish would be in line for the games.

What’s happening in the minor leagues? Norfolk was held to just three hits in a 5-2 loss to Nashville. Centerfielder Daniel Johnson had both RBIs.

Starter Seth Johnson (0-3) allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits in 3 2/3 innings as Double-A Bowie lost to Erie, 8-4. Shortstop Anthony Servideo had three hits and hit his third home run.

High-A Aberdeen lost to Brooklyn 4-0. The IronBirds had five hits.

Nestor German, Jiorgeny Casimiri and Braxton Bragg (1-0) limited Fayetteville to two hits in Single-A Delmarva’s 3-1 win. The Shorebirds had just three hits.

In their first rehab games, Terrin Vavra was hitless in three at-bats, third baseman Max Wagner went 1-for-4 as the Florida Complex League Orioles lost to the FCL Pirates, 8-6.

What does it mean? The Orioles have received excellent starts over the last six games from six starters: Means, Cole Irvin, Kyle Bradish, Corbin Burnes, Dean Kremer and Grayson Rodriguez, who’s now on the injured list.

What’s the word? “I have a lot of respect for John Means, the journey that he’s been through to get to this point and he’s going to be a big part of our rotation, a big part of our team. I know I’m not alone in saying that we’re very excited to have him back.”-McCann on Means.

What’s the stat of the day? Means recorded 19 swings and misses, according to Baseball Savant, the most since his no-hitter on May 5th, 2021 in Seattle.

What’s next? Dean Kremer (2-2, 4.19) will start for the Orioles in their final game against Cincinnati on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. Nick Lodolo (3-0, 1.88) will start for the Reds.

Call for questions: Each weekday, I’ll be answering at least one Orioles’ question. Please send yours to: [email protected]

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