BOSTON - John Means gave the Orioles five innings today. Gave them a gritty effort with easy stretches, one jam escaped and minimal damage in another. Gave them reasons to consider him for a longer stay in the rotation.
Alex Cobb is expected back next weekend, leaving Means to wonder how he’s going to be handled. He’ll let the people above his pay grade make the decision.
Means complicated it by holding the Red Sox to one run in his second major league start, the deficit too much for the Orioles to overcome in a 4-0 loss at Fenway Park.
The Orioles were shut out for the first time this season and are 6-10 with losses in nine of their last 11 games.
A bullpen with a 7.46 ERA and 1.78 WHIP before today tossed two scoreless innings before Xander Bogaerts hit a three-run homer off Josh Lucas in the eighth. Lucas replaced Paul Fry after Mookie Betts’ leadoff single, and he struck out Steve Pearce and gave up a single to J.D. Martinez before his slider was demolished.
The Orioles couldn’t cash in with runners in scoring position in the last four innings and Bogaerts made them pay.
By allowing a home run in the first 16 games, the Orioles have tied the record held by the 2009 Phillies.
The only run off Means came in the fourth inning after Pearce led off with a single and advanced to third base on Martinez’s double. Pearce scored on Bogaerts’ fly ball to center field.
Evan Phillips replaced Means after the left-hander threw a career-high 82 pitches. Means allowed four hits, walked one batter, struck out three and hit one. His ERA dropped to 1.98 in 13 2/3 innings.
The changeup kept producing outs for Means. On Betts’ hard one-hopper to the mound and Pearce’s strikeout in the first. On Dustin Pedroia’s fly ball to medium right field and Eduardo Núñez’s double play grounder in the second after Martinez was hit by a 90 mph fastball and Bogaerts singled.
On Bogaerts’ sacrifice fly in the fourth and Pedroia’s comebacker that caught Martinez in a rundown - the out recorded as 1-2-5-1-2. On Rafael Devers’ grounder to end the inning after Núñez walked.
The Orioles had a chance to take the lead in the top of the fourth when Joey Rickard led off by reaching on Devers’ two-base throwing error, but Trey Mancini struck out and Rickard was cut down trying to steal third.
Rickard is 0-for-2 in stolen base attempts and 16-for-22 in his career.
David Price held the Orioles to one hit until Richie Martin led off the sixth with a double to left-center field. Cedric Mullins struck out after failing to lay down a bunt, Jonathan Villar struck out and Rickard lined to Devers.
Mancini led off the seventh with a double - he would have been an easy out if left fielder Blake Swihart’s throw came close to the bag - but Renato Núñez flied out, Hanser Alberto bounced back to the mound and Jesús Sucre popped up.
Pinch-hitter Rio Ruiz walked with one out in the eighth and Betts ran down Mullins’ fly ball on the center field warning track. It appeared that Mullins had tied the game after making contact, but he hit the ball, which traveled 396 feet per Statcast, to the wrong part of the ballpark.
Villar singled up the middle with two outs, but pinch-hitter Dwight Smith Jr. flied to center. Smith was a late scratch today with a sore right leg.
Mancini led off the ninth with a walk against Matt Barnes and Alberto punched a single into right field with one out. Sucre grounded out and Chris Davis struck out looking.
Davis followed his three-hit, four-RBI game yesterday by going 0-for-4 with a groundout, popup and two strikeouts. The popup concluded an eight-pitch at-bat. The strikeout came against Ryan Brasier, who relieved Price in the eighth and wriggled out of a jam.
The game also included first base umpire Stu Scheurwater ejecting pitching coach Doug Brocail in the bottom of the sixth as Phillips tried to keep the deficit at one run.
The visiting dugout is on the third base side. Brocail must have been loud.
Scheurwater is remembered for twice ejecting former manager Buck Showalter after calling balks on reliever Darren O’Day. Scheurwater is behind the plate for Monday morning’s series finale.
Phillips struck out Núñez to strand two runners in scoring position after Martin’s throwing error.
Brocail has been ejected nine times in his career - six as a pitcher and three as a coach, most recently by umpire Doug Eddings on July 31, 2017.
Manager Brandon Hyde on Means: “Means was really good. He gave us a chance to win. We just couldn’t. Runner on second base and nobody outs three times and you don’t advance him once, it’s tough to win that way.”
Hyde on Brocail: “There were a few questionable check swings that didn’t go our way. All three didn’t go our way, and I think Broc had enough. There was a lot of yelling from the dugout and Broc got singled out.”
Hyde on yelling at plate umpire Ben May after Davis strikeout: “That ball might have been up, I thought it might have been up. I haven’t seen the replay on it. It looked up from where I was. But that didn’t cost us the game. What cost us the game was not being able to move runners and score runners off David Price, who was really good today and you’ve got to be able to execute with him on the mound. And not being able to keep the ball in the ballpark in the eighth inning after we put together a nice rally in the top half.”
Hyde on what’s most impressive about Means so far: “Like I said this morning, I like his aggressiveness. I like today he dumped a few curveballs or breaking balls in for strikes, too, which he hadn’t done and that’s something that he’s going to continue to improve on and be another weapon for him to have that third pitch. And he did that a few times today just to kind of lock up guys, maybe dump a breaking ball in to get ahead in the count. And again, he had a really good changeup.
“I like the way he moves around his fastball, a couple punchouts on elevated fastballs. Pitched with a really, really good tempo and keeps you in the game.”
Hyde on Means staying composed at Fenway Park: “He’s a very even-keel guy. I don’t see him getting rattled by a tough environment. I like his composure like a lot of our guys. And I think guys tend to sometimes raise their game up when there is an adverse environment and there are a lot of guys. It’s fun, it’s fun playing here, it’s fun playing in these types of places and it didn’t seem to bother John at all.”
Hyde on Smith: “In BP, just his leg, his quad was a little tight and I just thought ... the right thing to do was to give him a breather and he’ll be back in there tomorrow.”
Means on what made him so good: “The changeup today really saved me. Everything else, I wasn’t really locating very well. I wasn’t locating in, I wasn’t locating up. It was just, the changeup really saved me today.”
Means on how felt after 82 pitches: “I felt good. I had 160 innings last year, so throwing this amount of pitches this early, I’m used to it.”
Means on getting more comfortable starting: “Yeah. I just want that role of being able to do whatever they ask me to do and I come to the field ready to go at all times. And I do like starting. It’s what I’ve always done. So, yeah, I’m just very comfortable.”
Means on not being rattled today: “I guess just all those years in the minor leagues where I was grinding all the way up. And now that I’m here the last thing you want to do is get rattled. It doesn’t help you at all and so I just have that mindset on the mound, why allow that to get you rattled if it doesn’t help you.”
Means on what was different today compared to first appearance here: “I guess more security. I came up late last year, so I was kind of the last person called up and now this year I get an opportunity to start and it just feels great.”
Mullins on loss: “Honestly, it was us not taking advantage of opportunities that we had early offensively. We had guys on second base with no outs, and we just couldn’t execute plays, including myself. I had an opportunity to move the guy over and botched it. That’s kind of what cost us today.”
Mullins on Means: “He has a great pace. He goes out there, he has a plan and he’s able to execute it. He’s able to keep guys off-balance, he has a great changeup and is able to work his fastball up in the zone really well. He’s doing a great job out there.”