Visiting the Mariners on May 5, 2021, John Means threw nine hitless innings, striking out 12 in the process.
“We were talking on the way here, last time we were here it was a pretty cool moment,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Great story, and a really, really special day.”
The O’s current starting staff does not include their ace, who underwent Tommy John surgery in April.
Bruce Zimmermann isn’t in the rotation either. After posting a 2.72 ERA in his first seven starts of the season, the lefty is down in Triple-A Norfolk working on returning to that form.
The O’s No. 10 prospect, Kyle Bradish, was placed on the 15-day injured list on Friday. Another option off the board.
“Guys have stepped up … guys like Dean Kremer, [Austin] Voth threw the ball well for us twice, [Spenser] Watkins did a great job the other day in Chicago,” added Hyde.
Amid all of that change, the O’s have allowed just 2.67 runs per game over the last 12 games.
It hasn’t been the ace or the 10th-ranked prospect in the system leading the way. It’s been the former Rule 5 draft pick, converted reliever Tyler Wells.
Through 14 starts this year, Wells has posted an impressive 3.34 ERA and 1.098 WHIP. Wells has made four starts in June, boasting a 2.57 ERA and allowing a .197 batting average. The Orioles are undefeated in those four starts, and have been victorious in six of the last seven games the right-hander has started.
“He’s been really good and extremely consistent,” Hyde said. “He keeps getting better … really happy with how he’s progressed.”
He’s putting up those formidable numbers in a unique way.
According to Statcast, Wells ranks in just the eighth percentile in strikeout rate at 5.6 strikeouts per nine innings. But he’s still missing bats. According to FanGraphs, hitters are barreling just 6.9 percent of his pitches this year, compared to 11.0 percent a season ago.
“I just think he’s so aggressive in the strike zone,” Hyde said. “He trusts his stuff … he understands that he’s not staying out there for a while, so he’s not trying to punch guys out. As a starter, he’s trying to navigate through the order a little bit … he’s just throwing a ton of strikes.”
The changeup has been Wells' best weapon. He is throwing the change about 10 percent more frequently than he did a season ago, and finding great success with it. Hitters are struggling, with just a .184 batting average and .224 slugging percentage against the pitch this year.
The Mariners are 30-10 in games in which they’ve scored four or more runs, but just 4-30 in games in which they’ve scored three or fewer. Wells hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in a start since his first outing of the year against the Tampa Bay Rays. Seems like a recipe for success to start a new series.
The O’s have gone 13-10 in June, and haven’t lost a series since June 5.
Over that stretch, Adley Rutschman has recorded 12 extra-base hits. In the last 10 games, the Oregon State product is hitting .314 with a 1.054 OPS, striking out just four times in the process.
It’s a bit of a homecoming from Rutschman, who hails from Sherwood High School in Oregon. Seattle held the closest big league stadium to Rutschman when he was a kid.
“I’m really excited," Rutschman said. "I went to a lot of Mariners games growing up, so definitely nostalgic for me.”
He’ll get to play in front of his grandfather for the first time as a major leaguer, too.
“That, for me, is one of those life goals,” Rutschman said. “It’s been tough, being on the East Coast, for him not being able to see me play in person since college. He’s someone who sets the bar very high, and who I strive to be like. Very blessed to be able to play in front of him tonight.”
On the injury front, Brandon Hyde added that Ramón Urías has “started to feel better the last couple days.”
“Took early batting practice today. That went well,” said Hyde. “So he is progressing. Hopefully, he keeps recovering well and we start seeing him out there sometime soon.”
By the way, Austin Hays doesn’t concern himself with no stinkin’ All-Star votes.
“I know I’m having a good season, playing good defense and putting together good at-bats,” Hays said. “Completely out of my control, nothing I can do about (his lagging total in fan votes). There’s no reason to get upset about it or get frustrated."
“Just controlling how I play on the field, and the rest will take care of itself.”
He’s playing really well on the field, for the record.