He didn’t put up a zero like Matt Harvey on Friday night, but left-hander John Means looked very much like his pre-injury self tonight. And seeing the Orioles ace pitch like that had to be a most welcome sight throughout Birdland.
Means allowed just one run over six innings and picked up his first win since his no-hitter as the Orioles beat Detroit 5-2 at Comerica Park.
There was a bit of drama in the ninth, as a comfortable win turned into something less than that. Tanner Scott struggled again. He entered up 5-1 in the ninth but loaded the bases with two walks and a hit-by-pitch and Cole Sulser replaced him.
Sulser got a groundout that advanced all three runners to make it 5-2. He then fanned Derek Hill and Jonathan Schoop to end it as the O’s secured the win and Sulser gained his second save in two nights and fifth on the year.
“I just think his timing is a little bit off,” manager Brandon Hyde said about Scott. “You know, just coming in after the game his knee is a little sore. So, we’re going to re-evaluate that and I don’t know if that was affecting him or not. Just like his timing is off. He’s not getting the chases on the slider, fastball was erratic the last couple of nights. But, somebody that we believe in a lot and he’s got a great arm.”
Hyde said he was not sure if the knee issue will send Scott to the injured list.
The Orioles (37-66) take a 2-1 lead in this four-game series, have won six of their last eight and are now 9-5 since the All-Star Game. They snapped the Tigers’ 10-game home win streak last night and beat them there again.
Means was making his third start since his stay on the injured list. He gave up nine runs over 11 2/3 innings against the Rays and Nationals, although his last outing was marred by one swing that cost him three runs.
But nothing marred this strong Means outing tonight.
He gave up four hits: a bloop single, two other singles and a solo homer. He walked one and fanned six. His changeup was outstanding, getting seven whiffs on 20 swings against it. He threw 99 pitches, 66 for strikes as he improved to 5-3 with a 2.84 ERA.
“For me, John Means looked like he did in April. This was early-season form,” said Hyde.
Said Means: “Yeah, that was definitely nice to see. Definitely still have some things to work on, but as far as the results go, I like it. I liked the changeup tonight. Pretty satisfying. That was my favorite part, getting close to 100 (pitches) again. Being able to get to that point.”
Means did not have a win since he no-hit Seattle on May 5. He had three losses and four no-decisions since that day. But tonight he recorded his 10th outing in 15 starts in which he went six innings or more, and his eighth quality start. He has 40 percent of the club’s 20 QS on the year.
The Orioles scored first tonight and began play this evening with a record of 22-21 when they score first.
Cedric Mullins singled with one out in the Baltimore third and then stole his 18th base. When Ryan Mountcastle blooped a 3-2 slider into center field it fell in front of Derek Hill to easily score Mullins for the 1-0 lead.
But Detroit got even against Means in the last of the fourth on an Eric Haase solo homer. He connected to left-center on a first-pitch fastball for a 1-1 tie on his 18th homer. It was the 17th home run allowed by Means this year, and he had actually allowed more homers this year than walks, 16 to 14 as he took the mound tonight. But 13 of the 17 homers have been solo shots.
When Maikel Franco hit a solo homer that just got over the left-field wall in the O’s fifth, Baltimore gained a 2-1 lead. Franco led off the frame and hit one out versus Tigers rookie right-hander Matt Manning. He hit an 0-1 fastball 361 feet for his 11th homer.
The Orioles have hit 18 home runs since the All-Star break, and 17 have been solo shots. They have hit 17 homers in their past nine games.
The 2-1 lead got a big lift when the Orioles scored three runs with some Tigers help in the top of the sixth.
A single by Mountcastle and two walks loaded the bases with one out. Pedro Severino popped out and Detroit was nearly out of the jam. Franco then grounded to short, but the low throw to second was dropped by second baseman Willi Castro and a run scored on the E4 for a 3-1 edge. The Tigers should have been out of the inning. The error became more costly when Pat Valaika flared a two-run single into short right for a 5-1 lead and RBIs 20 and 21.
“That was a huge play and we cashed in on a mistake, which is what good teams do,” Hyde said. “Valaika with a huge hit after the bobble at second base.”
Means and the O’s bullpen took it from there as the Birds finished July going 10-12.
Farm notes: Lefty Drew Rom, 21, made a strong Double-A debut tonight for Bowie at Richmond. Rom allowed four hits and one run over five innings with two walks and six strikeouts on 77 pitches. He was the winning pitcher as the Baysox won 2-1 to improve to 45-30.
He just recently was promoted from high Single-A Aberdeen, where he went 8-0 with a 2.79 ERA.
In that same game, infielder Richie Martin hit a two-run homer as his rehab assignment continued tonight.
Lefty Bruce Zimmermann, working to make his way back to the Orioles rotation, made a rehab start tonight for Aberdeen. Over three innings he allowed three hits and two runs (one earned) with two walks and four strikeouts on 55 pitches, 38 for strikes.
Right-hander Ofelky Peralta allowed two homers tonight in his Triple-A debut for Norfolk at home versus Durham. He gave up five runs and six hits in 4 2/3 innings. Robert Neustrom had a two-run double for the Tides and Jahmai Jones hit his eighth home run.