Jays power past Means and Orioles in 10-1 win (updated)

Nothing about today’s start in Toronto was capable of lowering manager Brandon Hyde’s opinion of John Means. The left-hander’s status as the Orioles’ ace of a young pitching staff. The expectation that he’ll hold the ball on opening day 2022.

Hyde just hoped to get a sharper outing, for the left-hander’s frame of mind heading into the offseason and his club as it tried to rattle the Blue Jays’ cage.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernández homered off Means in a three-run first inning, George Springer launched a three-run shot in the second and the Orioles failed again to resemble spoilers against the Jays, who coasted to a 10-1 win at Rogers Centre.

Means exited after the third, an unearned run attached to him, and the Orioles are 52-109 overall and assured of finishing with a worse record than the 2019 club that went 54-108. They’re 5-13 against Toronto, which joined the Mariners today in being a game back for the second wild card.

Guerrero’s 47th home run and 11th against the Orioles came on a floating changeup that traveled 450 feet with a 111.7 mph exit velocity, per Statcast. Hernandez raised Means’ homer total to 29 this season with a solo shot on a 92 mph fastball.

A third pitch, a curveball, resulted in Means’ 30th homer, and tied his season high of three in a game and the six earned runs he surrendered against the Tigers on Aug. 12. The inning began with Santiago Espinal’s single, Danny Jansen’s double and Randal Grichuk’s fly ball to Austin Hays that forced Espinal to hold at third base.

The Jays were delayed, but not denied.

They also were mashing, hitting five home runs on the day.

“Meansie didn’t really have it today,” Hyde said. “He’s dealing with a little bit of an illness and just felt like the fastball velocity wasn’t quite there. He just looked tired, to be honest with you. And a lot of the changeups kind of cut in the middle of the plate. Didn’t have the crispness to his breaking ball. They got on him right away and hit him pretty hard. He just didn’t have the same zip to his fastball, and changeup didn’t come until about the third.

“He gave us everything he had today, really gave us everything he had this year. And this is a small blip on Meansie’s season. Happy with his year. He’s still early on in his career. Looking forward to the adjustments he’s going to make going into next spring training. Even though he didn’t have a good one today, he had a really nice year.”

The cold impacted Means “maybe a little bit,” he said, his voice sounding hoarse. “I just wasn’t executing. It’s just a cold, so it’s not too bad, but just tried to give everything I had today and it wasn’t very much.”

Means-Throws-Gray-TOR-Sidebar.jpgMeans had to endure a long delay before the bottom of the third inning when plate umpire Chris Guccione walked off the field and second base ump Chris Conroy replaced him, reducing the crew to three. Means struck out the first two batters, but Richie Martin committed a fielding error and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. scored after a wild pitch and Espinal double.

The Jays collected six earned runs and seven hits against Means, who threw 57 pitches and ended his season with a 3.62 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 146 2/3 innings.

A season that included his no-hitter in Seattle, ERAs of 1.70 in April and 2.43 in May, another shoulder-related stint on the injured list, and stretches of dominance and vulnerability - the changeup moving from signature pitch to unreliable later in the summer.

“It’s hard to look back after this one and be satisfied, but I’m happy that I made it through ... I’m really glad that I can make it through three years after the way I came up,” Means said. “To complete three years in the big leagues is something that was my goal from Day One. I look back and I’m satisfied, but obviously I have some things to work on in the offseason.”

“Looking back on his year, an amazing start to the year,” Hyde said earlier today.

“His first month or two, was one of the better pitchers in the game from a numbers standpoint, what he was doing on the mound. He was pitching like an All-Star and like a top-of-the-rotation guy, and then had a little bit of shoulder fatigue that shut him down for a while. I think coming off that, I thought he was a little bit inconsistent for him, had kind of a tough time finding his changeup really the second half. There would be period where it would be there. Some starts it would be there, some starts it wouldn’t.

“So the second half was a little bit inconsistent, but that being said, still really giving us a chance to win every start out sometimes without his best stuff. So, if you look at the body of work, he’s got a 3-something ERA in the American League East without really having his best stuff in the second half. I think that he has pitched at times this year like an All-Star type pitcher. In almost every single start that he’s made this year, he’s given us a chance to win, and that’s what a major league starter does. So, as inconsistent as he’s been a little bit in the second half, he’s had a really good year. Real excited about John going forward.”

Means said his winter will be spent trying to correct some flaws in his mechanics.

“Past couple months, it’s just been hard to replicate what I’ve been doing and just kind of getting into cruise control like I was at the beginning of the year and first half,” he said. “Just being able to repeat over and over again the same mechanics and the right mechanics. I think that’s the main focus, and just trying to clean up the pitches a little bit.”

A plan already is on place to implement some scapula and shoulder routines in preparation for his offseason work.

“It’ll probably have a little bit to do with it,” he said, “definitely something to focus on.”

The Jays improved to 16-4 with Alek Manoah starting, and the rookie was in top form with one hit and 10 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings. The Orioles cut the lead to 3-1 in the second on Ryan McKenna’s RBI grounder after Trey Mancini’s leadoff double.

Today marked the first time that two University of West Virginia pitchers started in the same game.

“Manoah’s really good,” Hyde said. “We’ve seen him a couple times now. He’s aggressive in the strike zone, he’s got great movement to his fastball, he’s got a good slider to go with it. ... He came out with a purpose today and he pitched outstanding.”

Austin Hays was hit on right wrist leading off the fourth, but he stayed in the game after head athletic trainer Brian Ebel checked him. Manoah’s 15 hit batters before today were tied with teammate José Berríos for most in the American League.

Martin singled off Ross Stripling with two outs in the eighth inning for the Orioles’ second hit.

Bo Bichette homered off Konner Wade leading off the fifth and Jansen delivered a two-run shot later in the inning for a 10-1 lead - the 254th allowed by the Orioles this season to rank first in the majors.

Ryan Mountcastle began the day leading all rookies with 33 home runs, making him the third in the American League since 1990 to reach that total, joining Aaron Judge (52) in 2017 and José Abreu (36) in 2014. His 33 homers are tied for the ninth-most by a rookie in AL history.

Mountcastle’s 259 total bases were the fourth-most by an Orioles rookie behind Hall of Famers Eddie Murray (287 in 1977) and Cal Ripken Jr. (284 in 1982), and Mancini (265 in 2017). His .492 slugging percentage would be the highest mark by a rookie in franchise history, surpassing Mancini’s .488.

Being quieted by Manoah didn’t justify the relative silence surrounding Mountcastle’s Rookie of the Year candidacy.

“He’s mature an incredible amount throughout the season,” Hyde said. “First full season in the majors, not easy to do. Can we start talking about him a little bit more for Rookie of the Year, please? It’s 33 homers and 90 RBIs on a team that hasn’t scored a ton of runs this year. It’s incredibly impressive.

“I think a turning point, April, there’s struggles, there’s things that happen to young players where you’ve got to make adjustments to the league. I think there’s pressing early. I remember the homer that he hit in Washington, I think it was off (Jon) Lester, for me that was kind of a turning point for him, where he got a ball to drive and stayed in the big part of the field, and I just felt like his at-bats from that point on got better over the course of the year, where he started to relax a little bit, started taking borderline pitches more, realizing he can drive a ball out of any part of the ballpark. Didn’t have to be too quick. He was just too quick early in the year, trying to do too much. Huge growth from Ryan this year and going to be a good player.”

So why isn’t Mountcastle getting more mention for Rookie of the Year?

“I don’t know why. That’s why I was asking you guys,” Hyde said.

“I think he has been lost because of our record and maybe we’re not on national TV as much. I don’t know what the answer is. I do think that he should be heavily considered for that award for what he’s done and he has my vote.”

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