A few more highlights from 2021

Baseball's lockout is fogging up the future. However, it can't blur the past. What's done is done.

A new collective bargaining agreement won't adjust the Orioles' 2021 loss total or remove the gains made by their prospects. It can't tarnish the memories.

Yesterday, we talked about Trey Mancini's comeback and Cedric Mullins' historic 30/30 season. Probably the top two moments of the season.

Unless you think the following belong closer to the top:

John Means' no-hitter
It began to feel real one time through the Mariners' order. Means wasn't allowing hard contact. He barely was allowing any contact.

Means threw the sixth no-hitter in Orioles history on May 5, permitting only one runner to reach base on a strikeout/wild pitch and facing the minimum 27 batters in a 6-0 victory at T-Mobile Park.

"I never thought it would happen, never thought in a million years," Means said afterward.

The lone runner to reach came on a curveball that got past catcher Pedro Severino in the third inning as Sam Haggerty struck out. Severino threw out Haggerty attempting to steal.

Means was the 12th pitcher since 1901 to face the minimum 27 batters in a nine-inning no-hitter without achieving a perfect game.

"He should be throwing a perfect game today if I blocked that, if I get that breaking ball between my legs," Severino said. "I feel just really, very bad."

toronto-ball-on-field.jpgThe dominance was just as impressive as the accomplishment. Means threw first-pitch strikes to the first 17 batters and 26 of 27. He hadn't worked more than seven innings in his career. Only one batted ball had an exit velocity above 95 mph, Dylan Moore's 96.5 mph popup in the third.

No Orioles pitcher had registered a complete game since Alex Cobb on Aug. 18, 2018 in Cleveland.

The Orioles didn't produce a no-hitter since the combined efforts of Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson on July 13, 1991 in Oakland. Hall of Famer Jim Palmer tossed the last individual no-hitter on Aug. 13, 1969 against the Athletics at Memorial Stadium, the longest active drought in the majors.

Means is the first left-hander in franchise history and the third in the majors from the state of Kansas, joining Walter Johnson in 1920 and Claude Hendrix in 1915.

The rest of Means' season had some bumps, including another trip to the injured list with a left shoulder strain, but he cemented his status as an ace and provided one of the biggest highlights in 2021.

Ryan Mountcastle rocks as a rookie
Again.

Mountcastle retained his rookie status in 2021 and placed sixth for the American League award in voting done by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, two spots higher than in 2020. His peers voted him first.

The first half offered some strong clues, like Mountcastle slugging 14 home runs in 83 games to tie Mancini (2017) for the most by a rookie before the break in franchise history.

An April that produced a .198/.229/.286 slash line, one home run, four walks and 30 strikeouts in 96 plate appearances sparked a debate over the wisdom of sending him down. That talk disappeared like a hanging slider.

Mountcastle's 33 home runs led all major league rookies and set the Orioles record. He became the third rookie in the AL since 1990 to record a 33-plus home run season. His total is tied for the ninth-most by a rookie in AL history.

Mountcastle is the first Orioles rookie to lead the team in homers outright since Curt Blefary in 1965. Jay Gibbons was the last to tie for the lead with 15 in 2001.

The 29th home run was a 438-foot shot on Sept. 16 that enabled Mountcastle to break Cal Ripken Jr.'s record.

"It was crazy," Mountcastle said afterward. "I mean, Cal is obviously the face of the Orioles, it feels like. And for me to pass him, it's a special moment for me and my family."

"Congratulations to Ryan on setting the new O's rookie home run record," Ripken tweeted. "He's a dynamic player. I wish him nothing but the best and excited to watch him in the years to come. All Orioles fans should be excited that he's on our team."

Mountcastle's 19 homers after the break led all rookies and tied for the eighth-most in history.

Mountcastle ranked second among AL rookies in slugging percentage (.487), extra-base hits (57), total bases (260) and RBIs (89), tied for second in runs (77), third in OPS (.796), hits (136), and doubles (23), and tied for fourth in walks (41). He appeared in 144 games, the second-most in the league.

The total bases are fourth all-time among Orioles' rookies. The slugging percentage is second behind Mancini (.488). The extra-base hits and RBIs are third.

By driving in a run in eight consecutive games from May 31-June 9, Mountcastle matched the longest streak in the majors this year and tied the club record. He was the AL's Rookie of the Month for June, the first Oriole to win the award since pitcher Brian Matusz in August 2010.

The opening day lineup will include Mountcastle at first base or as the designated hitter. And there won't be any talk of optioning him in April.

Sizing up one 2022 rotation candidate
A few highlights from 2021
 

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