John Means was extended to 108 pitches. They weren’t supposed to be crammed into five innings.
An offense that scored three runs or fewer in five of the last six games remained sluggish most of the day and the Orioles settled for a split of the series after a 7-4 loss to the Rangers before 13,495 at Camden Yards.
Pedro Severino hit a two-run homer in the ninth, but the Orioles are 50-106 heading into their last off-day and remain stuck on four series wins at home. They went 4-3 against the Rangers, who are trying to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1973.
Eric Hanhold surrendered a run in the seventh on Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s RBI single. Kelvin Gutiérrez singled with one out in the bottom half to advance Severino, who drew a leadoff walk. Pinch-hitter Cedric Mullins lined a ball into right field that fell in front of Adolis García, who picked up his 15th outfield assist, a Rangers rookie record, by throwing out Gutiérrez at second base for an unconventional force play.
Fernando Abad inherited two runners from Conner Greene with no outs in the eighth and they scored on Willie Calhoun’s triple. Trey Mancini led off the ninth inning with a single, only the third hit for the Orioles, and Severino homered off Kolby Allard.
Means was charged with three runs and seven hits in five innings, with no walks and eight strikeouts. His 108 pitches were the most since he totaled 113 in his no-hitter.
Making his penultimate start of 2021, Means fell behind 2-0 in the fourth on Andy Ibañez’s two-run homer, and a defensive breakdown cost him in the fifth when García doubled to left field to break the tie.
“It was not a very sharp outing,” Means said. “I wasn’t getting ahead. Changeup was good early and then I lost it late. I had to go to the curveball that already sucked as it was. Just had to grind through that one.”
Dane Dunning didn’t allow a hit in three innings, but he walked three batters and nailed one. Ryan Mountcastle grounded into two double plays. Austin Hays led off the fourth with a walk and Santander belted his 18th home run, the ball landing above the grounds crew shed.
Santander had the only hit off Dunning in 4 2/3 innings, but the right-hander walked five batters. Santander came out of the game in the top of the ninth after jogging to first base on a grounder.
“He just came out with some leg discomfort,” said manager Brandon Hyde.
Means had five strikeouts through three scoreless innings and registered two more in the fourth, but Nathaniel Lowe singled with one out and Ibañez launched a changeup. The 27th home run allowed by Means this season.
Calhoun doubled with two outs, but that was the extent of the damage.
The Rangers kept jabbing at Means. The two-out single in the first inning. The one-out single in the second. The single, home run and double in the fourth.
Leody Taveras led off the fifth with a walk and Kiner-Falefa reached on a fielder’s choice grounder with one out after Pat Valaika fielded the ball and found no one covering second base. García followed with his tie-breaking double and Means’ pitch count kept climbing.
The changeup has been “just a little bit inconsistent for him,” Hyde said. “The last couple starts it was getting better. I thought he showed some flashes of it today. He got hurt with the one, the 2-0 changeup for the homer that was up in the zone, kind of flat. I thought it went in and out a little bit today. I thought he really grinded through his outing. Punched a bunch of guys out. They hit a lot of foul balls.
“A double play ball wasn’t turned, he should have been out of that inning. Potentially go out for another inning. It really extended that fifth inning there. Unfortunately, we didn’t score many runs for him, either. Thought he really competed today.
“We’ve been playing fairly well defensively. We have some youth out there. We just didn’t make a couple plays today.”
Means will go into his final start with a 3.32 ERA, allowing three runs or fewer in his last seven outings.
“I’m happy with most of (the season),” he said. “Grinding my way through some rough parts and also it clicked there for a while. It’s kind of been the tale of two changeups for me, to be honest. I had the changeup the first half and did well, and kind of lost the changeup. And once that pitch is on - and it was on today until it wasn’t - I was all right. That’s really what happened this season.”
Mullins remained out of the lineup with a sore hamstring and was removed for a pinch-runner after reaching base. Chris Ellis could be shut down and denied one last start due to arm fatigue and soreness. Players are day-to-day or done with six games left.
“I think you’re seeing more arm fatigue around the league, and core stuff, probably because of the length of this season compared to the last,” Hyde said this morning. “We had no idea what to expect this year and I think you’re seeing kind of league-wide right now the length of this season compared to last year’s.”
Earlier in the day, the Orioles celebrated the resurgence of their minor league system by announcing their various award winners, including Adley Rutschman, Kyle Stowers and Grayson Rodriguez. Hyde said he feels “a lot better” about it compared to two years ago.
“We’re starting to see more talent, one, get into the organization, but two, getting promoted. Guys having good years getting promoted - talented guys, prospects,” Hyde said.
“When you start having prospects at premiere positions at every single level, that’s when you start to feel good things are on the way. So, if you look at our offensive numbers up and down our minor league teams, there’s guys really producing at every single level and pushing guys, and that’s what you want, you want guys to be pushed. So, it’s good to see a lot of our guys have success this year.”