Most days, Orioles left-hander John Means features a solid fastball. He throws it about 49 percent of the time and averages around 94 mph. Today, the velocity was there as usual, but the results were not usual at all.
Means was showing an at times elite fastball as the Orioles edged Tampa Bay 2-1 to take the final game of this five-game series.
Means usually uses that fastball to set up his quality secondary pitches. Today, that heater was helping him rack up a career-best 12 strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings. His previous strikeout career high was seven and the most by any O’s pitcher this year was nine. Keegan Akin got nine over five innings earlier this week against Atlanta.
Means’ total was three shy of the Orioles’ single-game club record of 15 strikeouts. Mike Mussina did that twice in 2000 against Minnesota and Boston. Erik Bedard fanned 15 Rangers at Texas in July 2007.
When Means had fanned 10 through four innings, it looked like he could make a run at that mark.
Means did tie one club record today when he fanned seven batters in a row. He got the last two of the first, fanned the side in the second and struck out the first two batters in the third. The seven consecutive strikeouts tied Sammy Stewart’s club record. Stewart got seven Chicago White Sox in a row on Sept. 1, 1978 in his major league debut. Akin got six Braves in a row on Wednesday during his nine-strikeout game.
Through three innings today, Means had fanned seven and the Rays swung at his fastball 13 times and whiffed on 10 of them. For the game, Tampa Bay whiffed on 16 of 36 swings against Means’ fastball. That 44 percent fastball whiff percentage is a career best and well above his usual fastball whiff rate of 24.6 percent, per Baseball Savant.
Means’ strikeout total of 12 is the most by an O’s pitcher since Dylan Bundy fanned 14 Chicago White Sox on the road on May 24, 2018. Means improved to 2-3 with an ERA of 5.02.
Over his past three starts, Means has allowed one run each time. In that span, he has thrown 17 2/3 innings, allowing 11 hits and three runs with two walks and 21 strikeouts.
Today marked the 10th time in the last 17 games that the O’s starting pitcher allowed one earned run or less. The rotation ERA in that span is 3.55. Means missed by one out of recording his third quality start of the year and the team’s ninth.
On the day, Baltimore pitching fanned 16 without a walk. The club record for strikeouts in a nine-inning game was 17 and they missed it by one. The Birds got 17 on Sept. 18, 1968 at Boston and also on July 5, 1997 at Detroit.