Means masterful and bats muted in 4-0 loss (updated)

As more players reported back to Camden Yards today, the ballpark deemed safe again after a few Marlins were retested for COVID-19 and an earlier evacuation was lifted, they were subjected to the latest disruption to their normal preparation and routine.

Because the year 2020 hasn’t provided enough to satisfy everybody.

Pitchers threw in the outfield and headed to the bullpen for their side sessions. Renato Núñez knelt on a towel and fielded grounders in front of the dugout, with third base coach and infield instructor José Flores peppering him from close range.

A card game didn’t break out, but only because social distancing makes it harder to deal.

Means-Throws-White-Vs-KC-Sidebar.jpgJohn Means looked like an ace again, retiring 14 of 16 batters, but he wasn’t the most effective pitcher in the game. The Orioles were stifled by Pablo López for five innings, let down by their bullpen and beaten 4-0.

Four Miami relievers contributed to the shutout and the Orioles, held to only three hits, were unable to move three games above .500 for the first time since April 2, 2019.

Means was pulled in his debut after only 2 1/3 innings and 51 pitches. Manager Brandon Hyde intended to bump up the limit tonight but wasn’t going to turn him loose.

Travis Lakins Sr. began to warm in the top of the fifth, which began with Means at 56 pitches and having set down 11 batters in a row and 12 of 13. Means retired the first two of the inning on fly balls, fell behind 3-1 to Francisco Cervelli and surrendered a line drive home run on a fastball that barely got over the left field fence to break a scoreless tie.

Hyde came out of the dugout and Means was done after 72 pitches. His next turn is Sunday in D.C. and he should be cleared to work into the 90s.

Former Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar flied out on the first offering from Means, a 94 mph fastball, and the first pitch seen by the Marlins since July 26.

Jon Berti reached on an infield hit with one out, the ball deflecting off Means’ glove, and he swiped second base. Means didn’t allow another baserunner until the Cervelli home run while keeping his fastball in the 94-96 mph range.

Seventeen of Means’ 24 pitches were strikes through two innings. His count stood at 33 after 2 1/3 and the Marlins had no idea how to take a good swing against his changeup.

Austin Hays broke an 0-for-15 streak with an infield hit to lead off the bottom of the second. He was 3-for-30 before beating out a slow roller to the left side.

Hays had the only hit off López until doing it again to lead off the fifth, this time poking a ground ball through the right side. He stole second base and was stranded after DJ Stewart struck out.

Stewart was 0-for-14 with eight strikeouts after the at-bat. He walked in the eighth inning for the fifth time this season, which got him on base but didn’t help the average and slugging percentage.

The Marlins scored twice in the sixth, with both runs charged to Lakins. Villar singled with one out, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Berti’s single. Corey Dickerson doubled off Paul Fry with two outs on a blooper down the left field line, Brian Anderson walked and Núñez misplayed Logan Forsythe’s bouncer for a 3-0 lead.

Jesús Aguilar hit a long home run off Thomas Eshelman in the eighth for a 4-0 lead.

A team that had to replace 18 players found a winning combination.

Anthony Santander doubled off reliever James Hoyt in the sixth and was stranded. Former Orioles left-hander Richard Bleier worked the seventh, minus a warm video tribute, and struck out Dwight Smith Jr. while retiring the side in order.

Hyde on Means: “I’m encouraged again. I thought he had a great fastball again tonight. His fastball velo in the mid-90s, he was attacking their hitters. Cervelli kind of ambushed him on the homer. But we got his pitch count up a little. We’ll hopefully increase it his next time out as well. I didn’t think he had the breaking balls tonight, but he didn’t really need them because the fastball was really playing up tonight. I think he was a little discouraged about some of the changeups he was throwing, but I thought he had a really good fastball tonight and pretty good second start.”

Hyde on whether team with unknowns play part in outcome: “No, I thought López pitching played a part in the outcome. We just didn’t swing the bat very well, didn’t hit very many balls hard. We’ve been taking really good at-bats off some really good pitching so far this season and tonight it just didn’t happen for us offensively. ... We didn’t put any pressure on them defensively, so give their pitchers credit for pitching us tough. It just wasn’t our night offensively.”

Hyde on Stewart: “I think he’s pressing. I think he’s trying a little too hard. It just seems like every swing he’s really trying to hit the baseball on top of the warehouse. Hays was pressing also and he gets that end-of-the-bat kind of hit. And then kind of helps him out the next at-bat and he gets a knock to right. Stew needs a couple of those hits to get him going and right now it looks to me like he’s trying a little too hard.”

Means on what felt different tonight: “The changeup was better. I thought I could throw that and work down in the zone. I had a few times when I left it up and there were some decently hard-hit balls, kind of fly balls in the outfield. I’m still trying to get it down, but today was much better and I think that was the difference-maker.”

Means on whether playing team idle for so long influenced outcome: “I don’t think so. I don’t think anybody’s thinking that. I think everybody’s kind of worried about going out there and doing their best. I wouldn’t say any circumstance was the reason for the outcome today. I just think everybody showed up and they out-pitched us and they won.”

Means on what afternoon was like for him: “I came to the field around, the latest you could go was 4 o’clock for the testing, so I came at 3:45 and there was still no word after that and I went home and waited for the text. We had a group text going, and waiting for Brandon Hyde to give us the go-ahead to come back to the field. And once we got to the field we still didn’t know what time the game was going to be until a couple hours before. They were still trying to decide that. You guys were probably getting the information just as fast as we were. We were kind of lost on it.”

Hays on whether infield hit can turn him around: “Yeah, baseball’s a funny game. Sometimes you find the barrel and the ball doesn’t find a hole and tonight’s there’s a couple balls I didn’t really hit all that well, but they found some grass and I was able to get on base a couple times. And that’s all I’m trying to do right now is just continue to have good at-bats, swing at good pitches, continue to stick with my approach and just wait for things to turn around.”

Hays on afternoon: “It was very strange. I don’t think I got here until about 4:30 for a 7:30 game, so that’s very different for me. I ended up coming here to give a spit test and went back to my apartment for a couple hours just waiting to get a text so I could come to the field. So it was very strange, but that’s just kind of the way this season is going so far. You’ve just got to hang with them and try to stay focused and locked in and just assume you’re going to play every game no matter what.”

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