John Means throws seven scoreless in his return as O's hold off the Reds (updated)

CINCINNATI – It was April 17th in Jacksonville, Florida, and one-time O’s ace John Means was pitching in his fourth injury rehab game with Triple-A Norfolk.

He didn’t get out of the first inning, threw just 34 pitches and gave up five runs and two homers.

But things were very different tonight. Very different.

Means, who had his best rehab game last Sunday with seven scoreless on one hit for the Tides, picked up tonight where he left off there as the Orioles beat Cincinnati 2-1 to take the first two in this series in front of 33,202 at Great American Ball Park.

There was much drama in the ninth as the Reds, down 2-0, got a run off Craig Kimbrel and had bases loaded and one out. But Yennier Cano got the save with a strikeout and flyout to end this thriller and make Means a winning pitcher.

In winning the Orioles improved to 22-11 overall, to a season-best 11 games over .500 and to 5-1 the last six games. The Yankees won to stay a game back.

Kimbrel, who picked up his 425th career save last night by striking out the side, allowed the first two runners to reach in the ninth on a single and walk before he fanned Elly De La Cruz. Spencer Steer's RBI single made it a 2-1 and left runners on the corners. It knocked Kimbrel from this game and denied the Orioles their third shutout in six games and fifth in the last 13.

But Cano got out of it. He walked Tyler Stephenson but fanned Christian Encarnacion-Strand and got a fly out from Jeimer Candelario for the last out. A base hit at the end wins it, but Cano didn't let the Reds get it.

As for Means, simply put, he was brilliant in his first MLB game since Sept. 29, 2023.

He went seven scoreless on just three hits, a double and two singles, with no walks and eight strikeouts. He threw 85 pitches, 58 for strikes.

Means got 19 whiffs on 44 swings. That was his most swings and misses since he got 25 in his no-hitter on May 5, 2021, at Seattle.

He pitched a 1-2-3 first and his night was off and running. Reds sensational shortstop, Elly De La Cruz, would go 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against him. Means fanned him in the first when he chased a changeup.

Means gave up a bloop single in the first, a two-out double in the third and an infield hit in the sixth. But the Reds never really did much against him and they went 3-for-23 versus Means.

The Orioles ended a six-series losing streak versus National League Central opponents and now have gone 102 straight regular-season series of at least two decisions without being swept.

There was some frustration on offense early on tonight for the Orioles against Reds lefty Andrew Abbott, who entered with a 3.27 ERA over six starts.

After Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman started this game with singles, Ryan Mountcastle flied out and Anthony Santander and Jordan Westburg fanned on sweepers.

The O’s stranded two more runners in the third inning when Santander grounded out with runners on first and third and two down. Rutschman and Mountcastle singled this time, but Santander’s hard-hit grounder at 97 mph was snared by first baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand to end that threat.

The O’s scored without needing a rally or singles to lead it 1-0 in the Baltimore fourth. Jorge Mateo, who began this year homerless in his first 17 games, hit his second in his last three games to give the O’s the lead.

Mateo smoked a down and in changeup to left and his liner hit 97.6 mph and got out, going 374 feet to break the 0-0 tie. Through four innings, Abbott fanned eight O’s but his pitch count was at 75.

An inning later, the O’s doubled their lead on Rutschman’s fifth home run. He hit a shot to left off a first-pitch fastball that went 377 and the O’s edge was 2-0. It was Rutschman’s third homer in his last eight games.

It was the 16th game this year when the Orioles have hit two or more homers and they are 14-2 in those games. They have hit an MLB-leading 51 this season.

The O's offense hasn't put up many runs lately, but their pitchers are rolling. This week Means and Kyle Bradish returned and combined to pitch 11 2/3 innings allowing only one run. O's pitchers have allowed seven runs in the last six games and 31 in the past 13.

Manager Brandon Hyde on Means: “That was unbelievable. I know he feels amazing right now. To go out and do that, seven shutout innings, first time off of rehab, that was way more than we anticipated and expected. Shows you the competitor Meansie is. And how off-balance he can keep big league hitters. Changeup was fantastic.

“I really had no idea what to expect today from him. You know he had a setback. Like I talked about before, results in rehab games don’t matter, but you do want them to have success. That last start there gave him I think the confidence to pitch up here again. But you don’t know what is going to happen, on the road, in a bandbox. Unbelievable effort."

Hyde on replacing Kimbrel with Cano: “Unbelievable job by Cano. Once we got up by one and a groundball double play situation (was possible) to end the game for me, Yennie is a great option for me right on right. I was hoping that was going to happen but he walked Stephenson. But, he got a huge punch out after and then a fly ball. I just felt that Yennie gave us our best opportunity at that point."

Means on his return and great outing: “Felt pretty good. Felt pretty good. You know, this team is playing so well, you just want to join them, you want to feel that energy they are feeling. So, to be back and be able to feel that, pretty incredible.”

Means on the quality of his stuff: “Felt really good. Felt like the slider, changeup was working. Locating well. Yeah, everything was working pretty well."

Means on all the whiffs: “Just locating well. James (McCann) called a great game back there. Just maybe shook one time the whole time. He did such a great job to kind of create that for me.”

McCann on having Means back: “That was great. I have a lot of respect for John Means and the journey he has 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 am not alone in saying we are very excited to have him back.”



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