After stranding 12 runners last night and continuing to search for a big hit with men in scoring position, the Orioles delivered twice today in the second inning for left-hander John Means, shut down for a while and simply let their ace handle the rest.
And boy, did he handle it.
Against a team that had no idea what to do with him. That couldn’t get ahead in the count or throw a scare into him. That was lucky to graze the ball, weak contract about as much as it could muster.
Means threw the sixth no-hitter in Orioles history, allowing only one runner to reach base on a strikeout/wild pitch and facing the minimum 27 batters in a 6-0 victory over the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.
The Orioles went 4-2 on the trip and are 15-16 overall and 11-6 away from home. They’ve gone 4-1-1 in road series.
They have a legitimate ace on their staff, the “team” qualifier unnecessary.
“I never thought it would happen, never thought in a million years,” Means said in his Zoom call. “I was never that kid who had a ton of confidence in himself and to be able to get to this point, I never really thought I’d be here. I’d always write ‘MLB player’ when I was a kid on the sheet when they asked you what you wanted to do when you’re older, but I never thought it was a reality. And now that it is, now I’m able to throw this, it’s crazy and I don’t even know how to describe it. I don’t know how to put it into words.”
The lone runner to reach came on a ball that got past catcher Pedro Severino in the third inning as Sam Haggerty struck out. Severino threw out Haggerty attempting to steal after going 0-for-7 this season.
A curveball eludes Severino and a perfect game is no longer possible, per the rules.
“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. But after, we still threw a no-hitter. We celebrated.
“I just think about, let’s complete this.”
Throwing out Haggerty was important, Severino said, “because just trying to help the team and help the pitcher, especially because I didn’t block that ball right there. It’s supposed to be my job to block that ball, especially for a strike.”
“It’s fine, it happens to everybody, it’s not a big deal,” Means said. “To get a no-hitter, I couldn’t care less that it wasn’t a perfect game.”
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 until today.
“I didn’t know until, I think, it was the sixth,” Means said after lowering his ERA to 1.37. “When you pitch away they definitely let you know from the stands if you have a no-hitter or not. I finally figured that out. In the dugout I just tried to keep my calm, keep my focus and not worry about it too much and just stay loose.”
“It’s special, it’s pretty crazy, I hope it lets everybody, every kid coming up knowing that anybody can do it. I was on my way out in the minor leagues and figured out a way to make a living out of this, and hopefully kids coming up, even the ones overlooked, know they have a chance.”
Means looked at his glove with his father’s initials on it as he headed to the field in the ninth. Alan Means passed away last summer, but was with him for every pitch.
“I said to myself, he wouldn’t care, he’s just glad that I’m having a good time,” Means said. “The accolades and all that never mattered to him. But it was pretty special and I know he’d be proud.”
Center fielder Cedric Mullins preserved the no-hit bid with a sliding catch to deny J.P. Crawford and end the sixth inning. Means notched his ninth strikeout in the seventh, one pitch after plate umpire Tim Timmons squeezed him again, intent on leaving his own mark on this game.
Kyle Lewis flied to the warning track in left field leading off the eighth. Austin Hays made the catch and smiled. Means watched Hays make the catch and grinned.
Two more strikeouts followed.
“I was trying to not think about it, so I was trying to talk to as many people as I could and laugh and joke and try to stay as loose as I possibly can,” Means said. I think I told Hays I thought that ball was way out and thank God he was there to catch it.
“I thought it was gone off the bat for sure. I didn’t really hear how well he got it. If it was Camden Yards it’s probably gone, so I’m glad we’re in Seattle.”
As for the sinking liner to Mullins, Means never grew concerned about the outcome.
“When something goes out to center field, I have complete trust in Mullins to go after it,” he said, “so I wasn’t nearly as worried about that.”
“Besides that,” manager Brandon Hyde said, “I don’t remember any balls hit hard, so that just shows you how dominant he was and how many swing and misses he got. Every foul ball from the seventh inning on, I would cringe, but it just showed you the lack of hard contact against a major league club for nine innings is just very, incredibly rare, and it just shows you the kind of stuff he had and the command he had to be able to speed guys up, slow them down and put the ball where he wanted to.”
Dylan Moore popped up to open the ninth. Haggerty struck out to give Means 12. Crawford lined the next pitch to short, the 113th, and Means was mobbed. Relievers jumped up and down in the bullpen. The celebration was on.
“Can’t put into words the last three outs,” Hyde said, “seeing how teammates embraced him, our clubhouse after the game. It was like we clinched a playoff spot. It was just so cool with how everybody loved him and what an incredible afternoon.”
“My stomach was turning from the eighth on. A lot of things are going through your head. Obviously, the defensive positioning. Do I have to defend for anybody? Who am I going to use? Where’s his pitch count at? There’s a lot of things going through your head. I was just pulling for the guy. I had Dillon Tate up while we were hitting in the ninth. I didn’t want anybody up while he was pitching in the bottom of the ninth, so how we do that, how quickly I can get Tate in the game if he gives up a hit. He’s going to throw more pitches than I’m comfortable with after a hit. I really wanted us to get three quick outs in the top of the ninth, to be honest with you. I wanted to get it going. But so proud of him and Sevie.”
Said Severino: “When we got the last out, it never crossed my mind it was the third out because I was thinking about what to throw to the next guy who was on deck. So when I saw somebody just running and start jumping, I started running to celebrate with my teammates.”
Means has allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of his last 11 starts dating to last September. He’s been sensational.
Today he was almost perfect.
The Orioles didn’t have a no-hitter since the combined efforts of Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson on July 13, 1991 in Oakland. Jim Palmer tossed the last individual no-hitter on Aug. 13, 1969 against the Athletics at Memorial Stadium.
“I can’t put it into words, I can’t do it,” Means said. “It’s such a crazy feeling and such a whirlwind of an experience and I don’t think I’ve been able to process it yet. But to be in the same breath as Palmer, I don’t think it gets much better than that.”
Today marked the sixth no-hitter since the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954, starting with Hoyt Wilhelm on Sept. 20, 1958 against the Yankees and continuing with Steve Barber and Stu Miller on April 30, 1967 versus the Tigers and Tom Phoebus on April 27, 1968 against the Red Sox.
No Orioles pitcher had registered a complete game since Alex Cobb on Aug. 18, 2018 in Cleveland.
The Orioles were 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position in the series - 1-for-9 last night and 0-for-9 in the opener - until Ryan Mountcastle reached on a force play in the second, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on DJ Stewart’s single behind shortstop. Stewart advanced on the throw and came home on Ramón Urías’ single for a 2-0 lead.
Before today, the Orioles were batting .210 with RISP to rank 28th in the majors, and their .580 OPS was last. They scored 72 runs, the fifth-lowest total in the majors, and their two home runs tied the Mets for fewest.
Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi found his rhythm after the second and was mowing down the Orioles until Pat Valaika homered for the first time this season in the seventh inning for a 3-0 lead. Also his first RBI.
Kikuchi struck out seven batters in seven innings.
Mullins and Hays singled off reliever Aaron Fletcher in the eighth and Trey Mancini launched a three-run homer, making the Orioles 3-for-3 with RISP and giving Means a few extra minutes to catch his breath while at 101 pitches.
Not that he did much exerting. He made it look so easy today and gave Major League Baseball its third official no-hitter this season.
“We just haven’t had a whole lot to cheer for the last couple years and these guys haven’t had the opportunity to celebrate a lot of things,” said Hyde, who also witnessed two Jake Arrieta no-hitters with the Cubs. “Two years ago was rough and stayed competitive last year, but to watch our guys celebrate, that’s a cool moment because this is a tough game and to watch one of your teammates, your brothers, do something really special is pretty cool.”