But Means did allow just one run over five innings tonight to get the win as the Orioles beat Toronto 4-2 to open a three-game series.
While the Blue Jays (23-43) lost for the fifth game in a row and the 15th time in their last 18, the Orioles improved to 21-45. They moved to within two games of fourth-place Toronto improving to 3-1 against the Jays this year and to 9-23 at Oriole Park.
Toronto second baseman Eric Sogard hit the game’s fourth pitch out to right-center for his third career leadoff homer and a 1-0 lead. It was his sixth homer of the year and all three of his career leadoff homers have come this season.
Means was at 11 pitches through the first three hitters he faced. But he walked cleanup hitter Randal Grichuk on 13 pitches and Justin Smoak popped out on the ninth pitch to end that inning. That put Means behind the eight ball after the top of the first at 33 pitches. He would need 70 more over the next four innings.
But Toronto would not score on him again either. He gave up singles in the second, third and fourth and walked two in the fifth, but kept the Blue Jays off the board.
Means improved to 6-4 with a 2.60 ERA, that would be sixth in the American League save for one out somewhere. Pitchers need a minimum of one inning per team game to qualify for league leaders. Means is at 65 2/3 innings on the year after the Orioles’ 66th game. Of course as soon as they would play game No. 67, he would fall back out, but at least he’s on the verge on climbing into the top 10 in the league in ERA.
Over his past three starts, Means has an ERA of 1.59 over 17 innings with four walks and 19 strikeouts. He’s allowed exactly one run in seven of his 11 starts in 2019.
The Orioles took the lead for good with a two-run third. Anthony Santander started a three-hit night with a single to right and would score on Trey Mancini’s RBI double to center. That was his 32nd RBI. The next batter, Chance Sisco, got his second when he dumped a double into the left-field corner for a 2-1 lead. An inning later, Santander’s flare double to right scored Jonathan Villar, who had doubled and it was 3-1. Santander went 3-for-4 for his fourth career three-hit night.
Toronto pulled within 3-2 in the eighth when Grichuck’s bloop double down the right-field line fell in. First baseman Chris Davis, who made an error earlier and went 1-for-3, could not make an over-the-shoulder catch. The O’s got the run back on Villar’s RBI double to left in the last of the eighth for the 4-2 edge.
O’s pitching has allowed just 17 runs the last six games. In that span, O’s starting pitchers have a 2.83 ERA and Means was an inning short tonight of making that six consecutive quality starts. In that same span, the O’s bullpen has pitched to an ERA of 1.69.
Congrats to the Shorebirds: Even though Single-A Delmarva lost 1-0 tonight at West Virginia, they are playoff-bound. When Greensboro lost its game, the Shorebirds clinched first place in the first half in the South Atlantic League’s Northern Division. So Delmarva has reached the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
Later tonight, we are expecting manager Kyle Moore to be a guest on the “Extra Innings” show on 105.7 The Fan.