That is always big for the Orioles and Means was tonight.
He threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings - his fifth start this year allowing no runs - as the Orioles blanked the Philadelphia Phillies 2-0 to start a three-game road series.
The Orioles (48-102) won for just the second time in 10 games and put a damaging loss on the Phillies record. Philadelphia (76-74) began the night just two games out in the National League East and 3 1/2 games back for the second NL wild card spot.
But Means was too much to overcome, as he improved to 6-7 and lowered his ERA to 3.25. He had been pitching well lately, but the Orioles had still lost his last eight starts dating to July 31 until this win.
Means allowed four singles with one walk and six strikeouts. He threw 105 pitches, his second-most this year behind only the 113 in his May 5 no-hitter at Seattle.
When he left the game, there were two on and two outs in the Phillies seventh, and Cole Sulser faced former Oriole Freddy Galvis. With runners on the corners, Sulser got Galvis to line to right on a 1-0 pitch to keep the lead and shutout intact.
The O’s shutout is their fourth this year and first since July 18 when Matt Harvey pitched at Kansas City.
Sulser got four big outs and Tyler Wells, who had allowed six runs over his last two games with blown saves in each, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.
The Orioles got a quick early lead tonight.
Outscored this year 104-80 in the first inning through Sunday’s game, they took a 2-0 lead in the opening inning. The O’s produced four singles and two runs against Philadelphia lefty Ranger Suárez, who began the night 6-4 with a 1.50 ERA and a 1.60 home ERA. He had not allowed a run in the first inning of his previous nine starts this year.
Austin Hays singled to start the game and advanced to third one out later when Anthony Santander smoked a single 110 mph into right field. Pedro Severino lined a single to center the O’s took a 1-0 lead and Santander advanced to second. Ryan McKenna followed with a single into right-center that was 99 mph off the bat for the 2-0 lead on his 11th RBI.
The Orioles, who scored six runs Sunday in Boston in a loss, had an early lead and went 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the opening frame.
On the mound, Means was rolling through five innings today with a one-hit shutout on 72 pitches.
He issued a two-out walk to Bryce Harper, but no runs in the first. Left fielder Andrew McCutchen drilled a single to center to start the second, but did not even advance one base as two strikeouts and a flyout followed. Means then worked three straight 1-2-3 three innings and had retired 12 in a row through five. He needed just 37 pitches in innings three through five.
Means even showed he could hit tonight when he drilled a booming double to center fielder off Phillies reliever Sam Coonrod in the seventh. The pitch came in at 98 mph and went out at 103 mph. Nearly 400 feet later, Means had a double and improved to 2-for-6 batting in his career. But that inning would end with Means trying to advance to third on a pitch in the dirt and he was cut down.
That was the first hit by a Baltimore pitcher since July 24, 2019 at Arizona. And that was also by Means. He is the first O’s starting pitcher with an extra-base hit since Zack Britton homered on July 3, 2011.
Means was doing it all tonight as the Orioles took the series opener at Citizens Bank Park and improved to 25-51 on the road and to 7-11 in interleague games.
Means on his outing: “This felt more like me. Changeup was good today, finally. Changeup, fastball was working, curveball wasn’t as good. But, you know, I made through it. But, yeah, this felt like more my style of pitching.”
Means on his double: “If that is my last at-bat, I’m happy with it. I was a little early on the fastball, I think, the 0-1. Then he went fastball up and I was like, ‘All right, if this is a fastball, I’m hitting it. If this is a curveball, I’m going to look like an idiot.’ Sold out and it worked and caught the barrel.”
Means on trying to finish strong: “You know, I’m hoping so. I’m glad this one went well. We’ll get back to work tomorrow and get ready for the next one. I don’t like thinking too far ahead.”
Manager Brandon Hyde on Means’ effort: “This was our best starter giving a great effort and pitching an outstanding ballgame. Two of our better relievers pitching the last seven or eight outs. Meansy had the changeup tonight. That was a big difference. Something he struggled with here the past handful of starts. Had everything working, one walk and that was late. Just a great job of pitching against a team that is fighting for a playoff spot.”