In his next to last start before his opening day assignment in Boston, Orioles lefty John Means saw the Pittsburgh Pirates produce a load of foul balls against him and he got his pitch count up, working into the fourth inning in Bradenton.
Means had quite a wild ride as the Pirates batted in bottom of the first. Shortstop Kevin Newman jumped on a first-pitch fastball and doubled to deep left. Erik González then produced a single on a swinging bunt toward shortstop to leave runners on the corners. Philip Evans hit a fly ball to right for a sac fly and the lead. O’s right fielder Austin Hays air mailed the throw home for an error, sending González to second. But Means got a strikeout and groundout to minimize the damage and leave the first down 1-0.
There were five swings and misses on 11 of his four-seam fastballs in the first inning. But there were also some deep counts as the Pirates hit 11 foul balls in a 32-pitch inning for Means. His fastball topped at 95 mph and averaged 93.5 mph in the opening inning, per Statcast.
The O’s tied it 1-1 in the second. Hays singled with two outs, went to second on a throwing error by pitcher Mitch Keller and scored on a Freddy Galvis RBI single to left.
After Means pitched a scoreless second, he faced more deep counts and foul balls to keep at-bats alive in the third inning. A walk and Newman’s second hit of the day put runners on first and second, and they moved up on a groundout to third. Then Evans flared a single into short center to score both runners for a 3-1 lead.
Means needed 26 pitches in the third and his pitch count was at 66 through that inning.
But the Orioles came up with three runs in the top of the fourth to knock out Keller and produce a 4-3 lead.
Hays singled with one out to go 2-for-2. He stole second and advanced to third on an error. Then RBI doubles by Galvis and Pedro Severino tied the game 3-3. Cedric Mullins’ bloop double to center scored Severino to put the O’s ahead.
Through the fourth inning the Orioles were 8-for-19 at-bat and were 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position. They began today having scored 38 runs their previous six games.
But the high pitch count would get Means out of the game with two outs in the Pittsburgh fourth after a walk and two strikeouts. Right-hander Jay Flaa came on and got the last out.
So, Means went 3 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and three runs, all earned. He walked three and struck out three. Means threw 82 pitches, 53 for strikes. He threw 40 four-seam fastballs, per Statcast, and the Pirates hit 20 foul balls.
“I mean, I definitely got my pitches in,” he said during an in-game Zoom interview. “I just got into too many deep counts. I don’t know if I was disappointed in that, I was disappointed with myself for just not attacking as much as I usually do, and the three walks is most disappointing. That’s just not me.”
Means did work in 15 curveballs and nine sliders today.
“Yeah, I liked my curveball. I like the break,” he said. “I thought I was stealing some strikes with it. Threw some better two-strike ones. Break is there, it’s just execution right now. But I feel pretty positive with it.”
Getting to 82 pitches today should allow Means to get to a pitch count in the 90-range Saturday, and he’ll be at 100 or more for opening day in Boston.
“I feel like I’m ready to go,” he said. “Feel like my body is there. I’m recovering well. Yeah, I feel pretty solid and yeah, ready to go.”
The Pirates tied it 4-4 against Flaa in the fifth. A walk, wild pitch and passed ball charged to Severino scored González for the tie.
This entry will be updated.
O’s lose to the Bucs: That is two losses in a row for the Orioles. The Pirates scored twice in the last of the sixth to break a 4-4 tie and won 6-5 today in Bradenton. It was an eight-inning game.
Rio Ruiz’s RBI double in the eighth pulled the O’s within a run, but he was thrown out trying to advance to third base.
González produced a two-run double in the sixth off O’s righty Isaac Mattson to break the tie. Mattson went two innings, allowing three hits and two runs.
Hays on his good spring: “Yeah, I mean my main goal, obviously, in the past I’ve had some issues with injuries and things of that sort, so to come in and have a healthy camp so far and just be able to show all my tools and all the things that I can bring to the table has been great to do that so far.”
Hays on good hitting spring: “I think what’s helped me have a good statistical spring so far is I’m doing a good job of controlling the zone. I’m keeping my aggressiveness at the plate, but I’m doing a better of job of being aggressive with pitches I can do damage with and hit balls hard, a lot of less weak contact balls in play. I think if I can continue to do that, I’ll continue to have success.”
Hays on the team defense: “I think we’ve had some lapses in concentration so far. Unfortunately, that happens in spring training, but we’ve shown some flashes of great defense. But we’ve been very inconsistent. We’ve had some games here and there where we’ve kicked the ball around, so, but later we get into this camp we need to clean up those lapses of concentration and just make sure we make the fundamental, routine plays.”
The Orioles have fallen to 7-13-1 overall, 2-8-1 on the road and 2-4 versus Pittsburgh.
César Valdez gets the start tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. in Sarasota when the Orioles host Tampa Bay. The game will be televised live on MASN.