Orioles manager Brandon Hyde didn’t want starter John Means putting too much pressure on himself to end a 17-game streak. The majors are hard enough without creating ways for it to grow more challenging.
“I felt like he did last time a little bit in his last start,” Hyde said early this afternoon. “Just want him to go out and pitch his game and hopefully he gives us a chance to win.”
There’s no chance if you don’t score. The odds improve just a little if it’s one run.
Means coasted into the fourth inning, allowed three runs and kept motoring, working through the sixth but watching the offense tease and not deliver in a 3-1 loss to the Braves before an announced crowd of 11,180 at Camden Yards.
The losing streak has reached 18 games with the Orioles swept for the 16th time. They’re off Monday before hosting the Angels in a three-game series that could carry the streak to the club record set in 1988.
The Orioles (38-85) have been outscored 149-47 during a skid that’s now the longest since Kansas City dropped 19 in a row in 2005. They put at least one runner on base today in six of the first seven innings and hit into three double plays. Ramón Urías led off the ninth with a double off Will Smith and was counted among the eight stranded.
“I thought today was going to be the day,” Means said. “Felt good, felt like things were going in our favor and it just didn’t happen at the end of the day, so move on to the next one.”
“We’ve been pretty frustrated for a while,” Hyde said. “This has been a tough run, extremely tough. But we got a nice start from our starter, just kind of one tough inning there. Meansie threw the ball well into the seventh. I was really happy how our bullpen threw the ball.
“We’re just not putting enough good at-bats together, major league at-bats. Atlanta’s got a good pitching staff and we just had a tough time getting a big hit.”
Dillon Tate entered in the seventh after Dansby Swanson’s leadoff walk and stranded him. Means was charged with three runs and four hits, walking two and striking out five.
“I didn’t really add a whole lot of extra pressure at this point,” Means said. “I just went out trying to control the game, for the most part, and just try to stay in attack mode. I did that for the most part. It was just that one inning where I just seemed to be better out of the stretch, honestly.”
Means was hit on the foot by Ozzie Albie’s comebacker leading off the fourth, the ball ricocheting to Urías, who spun and made the throw. Jorge Soler followed with a home run, the 23rd surrendered by Means this season, to break a scoreless tie.
Freddie Freeman doubled to left field, with DJ Stewart pulling up as the ball hit the middle of the fence. Swanson walked with two outs and both runners scored on Adam Duvall’s double to left-center for a 3-0 lead.
Austin Riley popped up, leaving Means with pitch counts of 11, nine, 12 and 30. He’s allowed six home runs in his last three outings.
Six home runs have come in his last three starts, but he retired seven in a row after Duvall’s double.
Means turned toward plate umpire Adam Beck and raised his glove for a new ball while the old one from Soler was in flight. Means never looked back as Stewart made a leaping attempt at what Hyde described later as “a Camden Yards home run.”
A bounceback inning arrived in the fifth with Means retiring the side in order with two strikeouts on 12 pitches. He needed only 11 to get through the sixth, notching another strikeout.
Means kept inducing soft contact early, if the Braves touched him. A routine fly ball and grounder in the first inning sandwiched around Soler’s strikeout. Three popups to first baseman Ryan Mountcastle in the second. A called third strike on William Contreras, a roller past first base by Guillermo Heredia for a single and Joc Pederson’s 6-3 double play.
“Probably a little bit more encouraged. Still wasn’t great, but definitely a step in the right direction in some aspects,” Means said.
“I thought the heater had a little more life. Just got to locate the changeup a little better.”
Said Hyde: “He went to his curveball more after that fourth inning instead of mainly going fastball/changeup the first four innings. He broke out the curveball more that fifth and sixth, and it worked well. I thought it was positive outing from Johnny. He gave us every chance to win the game.”
Mountcastle walked against Touki Toussaint with one out in the first inning, the first free pass for the Orioles in the series and only the second in the last five games, but Trey Mancini grounded into a double play. Austin Wynns walked in the third and Cedric Mullins doubled with two outs for the team’s first hit, but Albies ranged far to his left to gather Mountcastle’s ground ball and throw him out.
Mancini led off the fourth with a double and scored with two outs on Urías’ double. Jorge Mateo drew his first walk with the Orioles and fourth in the majors, but Wynns struck out.
Richie Martin led off the fifth with a single, but Mullins flied to deep right field and Mountcastle bounced into a 5-4-3 double play. Anthony Santander singled with one out in the sixth on a missile off Swanson’s glove, and Toussaint left to standing applause from Braves fans. Pinch-hitter Austin Hays flied out against A.J. Minter and Urías struck out.
Mateo began the seventh with an infield hit against Chris Martin and Wynns grounded into a double play. Martin singled again with two outs and reliever Tyler Matzek walked Mullins, but Mountcastle struck out.
“I thought we kept pushing through the game,” Hyde said. “There was no quit in our guys.”
Younger players seek out veterans like Means for advice on how to proceed through a season that’s unyielding in its abuse.
“Just to stay on your routine constantly, day in and day out,” Means said. “Don’t get away from that and just try to constantly nip the things in the bud that are bugging you and are giving you trouble on the mound. But I think we’ve been pressing pretty hard, honestly. I think everybody’s been trying to fix everything, and I think we just need to relax and play the game and have fun again, because it has not been a whole lot of fun lately. That’s for sure.”
Tanner Scott had a scoreless eighth inning, his third in a row and fifth in six outings. Jorge López entered in the ninth, his first relief appearance since Aug. 25, 2020 at Tropicana Field, and allowed an infield hit in a scoreless inning.
López struck out two batters. His sinker sat at 96 mph and his four-seam fastball touched 97.
“That was fun to watch Lopie there in the ninth inning in his first time out of the ‘pen this year,” Hyde said.
“I thought he looked confident, I thought his fastball had really good life to it. You saw some bad swings. I liked the way he challenged hitters.”
Notes: Reliever César Valdez cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Norfolk.
The starters for the series against the Angels at Camden Yards are listed as follows:
Grayson Rodriguez was charged with five runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings. He walked two batters and struck out seven.