O’s game blog: John Means faces Tampa Bay at the Yard

The Orioles are still trying to figure out a way to beat the Tampa Bay Rays. Tonight they turn to their ace lefty John Means to try to defeat the Rays for just the second time this year.

But tonight’s start comes at a time when Means (5-6, 3.50 ERA) is struggling badly. On Aug. 6, Means allowed just one run over five innings versus Tampa Bay. But in the three starts since then - one that came versus the Rays - Means is 0-3 with an 8.16 ERA. He has allowed 13 earned runs and 20 hits, yielding six home runs, in 14 1/3 innings against Detroit, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. Those teams hit .323 with a 1.080 OPS against him in those games. His ERA was 2.79 when the stretch began.

We need to keep in mind that, even with these struggles, Means’ 3.50 ERA is pretty strong - it’s 28 percent above league average. And it would be a career-best ERA for Means if he finished at this point.

Thumbnail image for Means Throws White Tight Sidebar.jpgBut Means tonight will try to reverse a few things on the stat sheet that work against him. He’s struggled recently, and has not pitched that well this year against this team or at home.

The home run ball has been a problem for the lefty. For the year, he’s given up 1.92 homers per nine innings. Among major league pitchers with 100 or more innings, that is the seventh-worst homer rate in the sport. But Means has never been a pitcher who greatly limits longballs, and this number is splitting the middle of his last two years. His homer rate was 1.3 in 2019 and 2.5 last season.

Before he went on the injured list this year, Means allowed 1.65 homers per nine innings. The rate has been 2.43 since his return from the IL.

And while Means has a 2.39 ERA on the road and 0.842 WHIP in road games this season, he is 1-3 with a 5.36 ERA in eight home starts with 1.289 WHIP and 2.68 homer rate.

In four 2021 starts against Tampa Bay, he is 0-2 with a 6.20 ERA and 1.525 WHIP. He is 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.125 WHIP in nine career games.

Tampa Bay (80-48) won the series opener 6-3 last night, handing the Orioles their 20th loss in 22 games. The Rays lead the American League East by four games over New York and seven over Boston. Tampa Bay has won five in a row and nine of 10. They are 20-6 the last 26 games, 27-11 since the All-Star break, 39-25 on the road and 40-18 against the AL East.

They improved to 16-1 against the Orioles on the season and have outscored Baltimore 134-60. They are 7-0 at Camden Yards.

The Orioles (40-87) failed to record their first three-game win streak since July 23-25 with Friday’s loss, and they are now 14-28 in series-opening games. The Orioles are 30-15 when they outhit their opponent, but the latest such loss came Friday when they outhit Tampa Bay 10-5. The O’s homered twice and are now 24-24 when hitting two or more home runs.

Outfielder Austin Hays hit a two-run shot in the game. This was his fourth straight game with an extra-base hit, a new career high. It was his first homer since Aug. 14 at Boston. His last two home runs were both hit on a full count, the first two instances of his career.

Center fielder Cedric Mullins hit his 23rd home run in the ninth, tying him with Ryan Mountcastle for the team lead, and it was the 30th homer of his career. It was his seventh career home run to come on the first pitch, and four of his last five longballs have been hit on the first pitch.

Trey Mancini recorded the 600th hit of his career with a single in the fourth. He is the sixth Oriole who began his career with the club to record his 600th hit in his first 583 career games, and the first to do so since Manny Machado in 2016.

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