With opening day fast approaching, the Orioles pitcher who is expected to be on the mound that afternoon is very much rounding into game shape.
Lefty John Means had a second straight strong tonight, retiring the first 10 batters he faced, as the Orioles faced the Atlanta Braves at Ed Smith Stadium. If Means continues to pitch every fifth day, he would line up for spring starts on March 22 and 27, then the opening game start at Boston on April 1.
Tonight, Means made quick work of the Braves in the first to start his day. Against a lineup that has several regulars, he pitched a 1-2-3 inning, ending it with a strikeout of catcher Travis d’Arnaud. Means then made quick work of the Braves in the second as well. He got Austin Riley, Johan Camago and Cristian Pache 1-2-3, with strikeouts of Riley and Pache. He did the same in the third against the bottom of the Braves order.
Then Means struck out Ronald Acuña Jr. to begin the fourth. But his perfect run, having retired 10 in a row, ended when second baseman Ozzie Albies hit a solo homer to left. Means allowed a single after that, but retired the last two batters to end the fourth down by the one run.
So he went four innings, allowing two hits and one run with no walks, four strikeouts and one homer. Over his past two games, he has thrown eight innings, yielding four hits and two runs with one walk and eight strikeouts. After his outing tonight, Means threw more pitches in the bullpen.
“I felt the fastball-changeup combination was good,” he said via Zoom after his outing. “I thought I was getting ahead and attacking the zone. Kind of felt in rhythm. I think body is recovering well and my arm feels good. Everything is working for the most part. Still probably need to throw a little bit more breaking balls, but other than that, I feel real good.”
Means’ ERA was 12.29 after his second game, 7.04 after his third outing and fell to 5.40 tonight.
“I never really look at spring training numbers,” said Means. “I think spring training is for working on the whole repertoire and just really staying healthy and recovering well. Obviously, it helps when you do well and you go out there and throw up some zeros. But at the end of the day, as long as you’re recovering well, that’s all that matters.”
Means said he is not just getting work in during these games, but also pitching at times as he would in the regular season. He wants to continue to build his pitch count up and work on all his pitches, he said.
“Just trying to work on everything. Like I said, probably throw a few more breaking balls, but other than, everything feels good,” he said.
The Orioles were not getting much going in the early innings versus Atlanta right-hander Charlie Morton. Trey Mancini singled in the first and Austin Hays doubled but was stranded in the Baltimore second.
But they finally got on the board for a 1-1 tie in fifth. Hays singled for his second hit, moved to second on a grounder, to third on a passed ball and scored on Cedric Mullins’ sac fly.
Tanner Scott pitched a scoreless fifth inning and had a few pitches touch 100 mph according to the Atlanta radio announcers. He had help in the inning when left fielder Ryan Mountcastle threw out a runner trying to go from first to third. Scott got the other two outs on strikeouts.
Lefty Paul Fry, who entered with a spring ERA of 24.55, put up a zero in the Braves sixth. He walked two, but stranded both runners.
The Orioles took the lead against Huascar Ynoa in the sixth. Back-to-back doubles by Mountcastle and Rio Ruiz made it a 2-1 lead. After a Freddy Galvis single, Hays doubled in two more runs for a 4-1 lead. That made him 3-for-3 on the night and he’s now batting .370 with an OPS of 1.100. A passed ball scored the O’s fifth run.
During an in-game interview Galvis talked about the O’s addition of his friend and former teammate, Maikel Franco.
“We are really good friends, man,” Galvis said. “I saw him since, I don’t know, he was 16 years old, when he came to the Phillies organization. I think the Orioles are getting a really good player. Overall, you have a pretty good arm and he can hit (with) some pop, a lot of average too. A lot of energy for sure and he’s plays good defense.”
That’s the final: The Orioles got a well-pitched win tonight, 5-2 over Atlanta behind that four-run inning and a combined five-pitcher four-hitter.
Fry wound up pitching scoreless ball over 1 2/3 innings. He had allowed 10 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings before this game. Travis Lakins Sr. went 1 1/3 innings, allowing one run, and Cole Sulser put up a zero in the ninth. O’s pitchers walked six and fanned nine.
The Birds are now 5-11-1 for the spring, 4-4 at Ed Smith Stadium and 2-0 against Atlanta, holding the Braves to three runs in two games.
The Orioles will enjoy their second spring off-day on Thursday and play the Pirates in Bradenton at 6:05 p.m. Friday with Dean Kremer getting that start.