Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells wasn’t available to pitch tonight after Orioles manager Brandon Hyde reluctantly had to use him to get the final out in Wednesday’s remarkable comeback win. The rookie pitched in back-to-back games and in three of the last four, and he wasn’t going to close if a slim lead carried to the ninth.
Hyde was just hoping to be pressed into a decision. No jokes about avoiding one-run games. He’d take any margin as long as his club was on the right side of it.
Kansas City rookie Carlos Hernández wasn’t allowing it, a couple of fly balls to the fence in the sixth inning unable to dent his shutout bid. The Orioles unable to get a hit since the second or keep the game close after John Means left it.
There was no saving Hyde’s team tonight.
A Nicky Lopez solo homer in the first was the only thing separating Means from his own bid. Means retired 13 of 15 batters before Hunter Dozier’s leadoff double in the eighth, which sent him to the bench, Lopez delivered an RBI single off Tanner Scott and the Royals scored three runs in the inning in a 6-0 win over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 5,087 at soggy Camden Yards.
Scott was charged with two runs and three hits in the eighth, Dozier launched a two-run shot off Manny Barreda in the ninth and the Orioles settled for a split, falling to 45-94 with the Blue Jays coming to town.
Means completed seven innings for the first time since May 24 in Minnesota and three of his last four starts have been quality. He was charged with two runs and five hits, walked two batters and struck out five, and Scott replaced him after 89 pitches.
“I was just frustrated I couldn’t get through that eighth, to go out and set the tone,” Means said. “I gave up that double. I’ve got to be able to go out and finish when my pitch count’s not very high and I wasn’t able to do that. That’s the only negative thing that I have.”
Salvador Pérez followed Lopez’s single with a ball that glanced off Jahmai Jones’ glove. Lopez moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Jones couldn’t make a backhand stop of Andrew Benintendi’s shot up the middle. Perez came home on Carlos Santana’s grounder to Kelvin Gutiérrez, who chose the out at first base, and the Royals led 4-0.
“If you look at Tanner’s inning there, they didn’t hit one ball hard,” Hyde said. “So a little bit unlucky.”
Domingo Tapia entered the game in the bottom of the seventh and retired all six batters he faced. Scott Barlow, in a non-save situation, handled the ninth and stranded DJ Stewart after a two-out walk.
Lopez, the second batter of the game, hit his second home run of the season to run Means’ season total to 25. A 93 mph fastball landed in the seats above the grounds crew shed, but Means struck out Pérez and Benintendi.
Michael A. Taylor singled and Hanser Alberto walked with two outs in the second, Dozier flied to the center field fence and Means walked back to the dugout looking like he could exhale twice.
A double play after Lopez’s one-out single in the third also was a relief to Means, who didn’t surrender another hit until Santana led off the seventh with a single.
The curveball was much more in play with Means tonight.
“My changeup’s kind of sucked lately, to be honest,” he said. “So the curveball was the pitch, it’s been the pitch that’s been more consistent. Hopefully, we can get everything working here soon.”
“He was really good,” Hyde said. “Besides the homer to Lopez early and the double to Dozier there in the eighth inning, he was in complete command of the game. I really liked his breaking balls night. He didn’t use his changeup as much as normal, it seemed like, but good fastball throughout, good breaking balls. They’re an aggressive hitting team and he had a lot of low pitch count innings, not much traffic. He did a great job. Just didn’t score for him.”
Mateo has reached base in 24 of his 26 starts since joining the Orioles on Aug. 5.
Cedric Mullins’ one-out walk in the third was wasted. With the grounds crew lined up behind the tarp and rain suddenly in the forecast, Trey Mancini and Severino drew walks in the fourth and Hernández received a mound visit with Mateo ahead 2-0 in the count. Mateo flied to deep left-center field and Jones bounced out as the precipitation arrived.
Hernández retired the Orioles on three fly balls to center field in the fifth, making it an official game, and the grounds crew worked on the mound and plate area. They were the only ones raking in a 1-0 game.
“We just had a tough time putting a rally together,” Hyde said, after the Orioles were shut out for the ninth time.
“We didn’t square many balls up besides that inning, and I thought Hernández, he’s got a really good arm. We saw him in Kansas City. And Tapia and Barlow were really good out of the ‘pen. So we just didn’t do much offensively tonight.”
Stewart made a sliding catch in the sixth to rob Perez and Means turned in a 1-2-3 inning.
Barreda followed last night’s winning debut by allowing his first major league hits and runs.
Notes: Hyde said Matt Harvey will undergo more tests on his right knee and the team will determine when and if he pitches again this season.
Grayson Rodriguez tossed three perfect innings with five strikeouts at Double-A Bowie. The Orioles are monitoring his innings and he came out after throwing 34 pitches, 23 for strikes.
Single-A Aberdeen’s Conner Loeprich allowed one run and three hits in five innings, walking none and striking out seven.
Single-A Delmarva shortstop Darell Hernaiz hit his sixth home run, a tiebreaking two-run shot in the fifth inning. He also committed his 20th error. Peter Van Loon tossed four shutout innings with one hit, no walks and four strikeouts.