O’s game blog (nightcap): Means against Morton and Cashner traded

The Orioles beat Tampa Bay 2-1 in Game 1 of today’s split doubleheader and host the Rays tonight in the nightcap in Game 3 of a four-game series.

Baltimore pitchers held Tampa Bay to three hits and Stevie Wilkerson hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the last of the seventh. He hit it that off lefty Colin Poche and had been 4-for-49 versus lefties until the homer.

The O’s pitchers shut down the Tampa offense after yielding 16 runs and 20 hits to the same team last night. Mychal Givens got the last six outs to record a save.

Tonight, left-hander John Means (7-4, 2.50 ERA) will make his 15th start for the Orioles. Means represented the club in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Cleveland, but he did not pitch in the game.

His last start was last Wednesday, July 3, at Tampa Bay. Over seven innings, he allowed six hits and three runs (two earned) with no walks and five strikeouts. Means threw 48 four-seam fastballs and 36 changeups among his 98 pitches.

John-Means-Walks-Away-White-Sidebar.jpgOver his past six starts, he is 2-0 with a 1.85 ERA. In 34 innings he has walked seven and fanned 31, allowing just two home runs. Opposing batters have hit .202/.250/.306 off Means in those six games.

The 26-year-old southpaw has been outstanding at Camden Yards. In 10 home games (eight starts), he is 5-1 with a 1.62 ERA and 0.947 WHIP.

Means made the All-Star team as a rookie and is also the first Orioles homegrown starting pitcher to make the All-Star Game since Mike Mussina, who did so five times, the last of which was in 1999.

Rays right-hander Charlie Morton (10-2, 2.32 ERA) will get the start for Tampa Bay. Morton was on the American League All-Star team for the second straight year, but he did not pitch.

Morton is the AL leader in ERA and also ranks first in win percentage (.833). He is tied for third in wins and is fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (11.34), fifth in strikeouts (142) and ninth in innings (112 2/3). Morton has the lowest opponent OPS in the league at .585.

He was the winning pitcher in the Rays’ 2-1 win over the Yankees on Sunday. In 5 2/3 innings, he gave up five hits and one run, recording one walk, 10 strikeouts and a total of 100 pitches. He has allowed one earned run or fewer in five of his past seven outings, going 4-2 with a 1.99 ERA and with a .198 average against. He has walked nine and struck out 59 in 45 1/3 innings in this span.

For the year, the 35-year-old Morton has a 1.030 WHIP and has allowed 6.4 hits and 2.9 walks per nine innings. He’s notched 11.3 strikeouts per nine. The Rays are 12-7 in his starts. But he has an outstanding won-loss record yet again, after going 29-10 the last two years with Houston. In 2017, in both the American League Championship Series and the World Series, he was the winning pitcher for the Astros in Game 7.

On Dec. 21, 2018, the Rays signed him as a free agent to a two-year deal worth $30 million. It includes a club option for 2021.

On July 2 at Tropicana Field, he beat the Orioles and struck out 12 over seven innings, his season high. He gave up four hits and one run on 101 pitches. Chris Davis hit a solo homer in the third for the only Baltimore run.

The trade: Between games the Orioles traded right-hander Andrew Cashner (9-3, 3.83 ERA) to the Boston Red Sox. In return they got 17-year-old outfielder Elio Prado and 17-year-old infielder Noelberth Romero. The two players that are from Venezuela, have been assigned to the Orioles’ two teams in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.

Prado is batting .303/.400/.418 in 33 games in the DSL and has mostly played in center field this year. Romero, who has mostly played at third base, is batting .264/.336/.364.

Cashner had gotten on a real roll in recent weeks, pitching to an ERA of 1.41 over his past five starts. He recorded eight quality starts his past 10 games, going 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA. He is expected to make his first start for Boston on Tuesday against Toronto.

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