Notes on Means and Hays, plus Hyde’s push for Mountcastle

He may have given up seven runs in three innings on Saturday afternoon - and that tied his career high for runs allowed - but Orioles lefty John Means closed out another strong year.

In 2019, he emerged as the top starter on the team. In 2021, he confirmed for all of us that he remains that and was not a one-year fluke.

Or that the earlier season was going to be an outlier in a longer career. He missed a few starts with injuries, but Means showed again that he is the ace of this staff.

Until he was hit hard Saturday by the Blue Jays, allowing a career-high tying three homers, he was on his way to topping his 2019 stats, and still did in several categories. Means was 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA in 2019 and 6-9 with a 3.62 ERA this year. But he topped 2019 in WHIP, 1.03 to 1.14, and opponent average, .224 to .234.

On May 11, Means threw six scoreless innings as a follow-up act to his May 5 no-hitter at Seattle. At that point, through eight starts, he was 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA and an opponent OPS of .438. He was dominant.

“An amazing start to the year,” manager Brandon Hyde said before yesterday’s game. “The first month or two, he was one of the better pitchers in the game, from a numbers standpoint, what he was doing on the mound the first month or two. He was pitching like an All-Star or a top-of-the-rotation guy and then had a little bit of shoulder fatigue that shut him down for a while.”

When he returned, Means got hit a bit and his changeup was not consistently sharp. But Means got it going again and was pitching to an ERA of 2.78 in his previous six starts before yesterday. His road ERA of 2.27 was tops in the American League.

“If you look at the body of work, he’s got a three-something ERA in the American League East, you know, without really having his best stuff for me the second half,” said Hyde. “He has pitched at times this year like an All-Star type pitcher, and every single start this year, he’s given us a chance to win and that’s what a major league pitcher does. ... So he’s had a really good year and real excited about John going forward.”

Means had a chance to join a group of just three pitchers in O’s history entering Saturday’s start. Means was looking to become the fourth O’s pitcher in team history minimum 100 innings) to post a sub-1.000 WHIP.

* Dave McNally, 1968 - 0.842 in 273 innings
* Dick Hall, 1963 - 0.958 in 111 2/3 innings
* Stu Miller, 1965 - 0.997 in 119 1/3 innings

Means comes up short in getting to that WHIP for the year, but he still stands tall atop the Baltimore rotation entering 2022.

Thumbnail image for Hays-Swung-Gray-sidebar.jpgHays’ strong finish: O’s outfielder Austin Hays was hitless in Saturday’s 10-1 loss at Toronto, but was hit by a pitch. So he’s now reached base in 19 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors.

Hays has had a strong finish to the regular season, one that establishes him as a starter in the outfield heading into next season.

“I love the way Haysie has really come on in the second half,” Hyde said. “That’s a huge boost for our organization, for him. A guy that’s getting regular playing time. We saw the flashes of what he could be, the kind of player, exciting player. Just had a tough time staying on the field. And for him to finish the season the way he is, to be able to stay on the field this second half and play almost every single day - I don’t even remember the last time I did give him a day off - it’s been awesome.

“It’s been awesome to see the at-bats getting better, the defense is extremely solid. I love the way he throws. It’s been a great development year for him and, hopefully, a confidence booster going into next season.”

A push for Rookie of the Year: No doubt all of Birdland is rooting for Ryan Mountcastle to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. If he does, he will be the seventh Oriole to win the honor.

• 1989: Gregg Olson
• 1982: Cal Ripken Jr.
• 1977: Eddie Murray
• 1973: Al Bumbry
• 1965: Curt Blefary
• 1960: Ron Hansen

During his pregame interview Saturday, Hyde got a Mountcastle question and took the chance to push him for the award.

“He’s matured an incredible amount throughout the season,” Hyde said. “First full season in the majors, not easy to do. Can we start talking about him a little bit more for Rookie of the Year, please? It’s 33 homers and 90 RBIs on a team that hasn’t scored a ton of runs this year. It’s incredibly impressive.”

Late-night drama leads to Sunday drama: This game ended early this morning East Coast time, with Seattle beating the Los Angeles Angels 6-4. So the crazy AL wild card race comes down to today’s Game No. 162 and a four-way tie is still possible. Here are the records heading into today:

91-70: New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox
90-71: Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners

The Mariners went to the last of the eighth down 4-3 last night. Mitch Haniger’s two-out, two-run single gave them a 5-4 lead.

The Orioles would eliminate Toronto from playoff contention if they beat them this afternoon at Rogers Centre.

The National League West comes down to today as well, with San Francisco at 106-55 and the Los Angeles Dodgers at 105-56.

Arizona won last night. If the Diamondbacks beat Colorado today and the Orioles lose, both clubs would finish 52-110 and the Orioles would win the tiebreaker and get the No. 1 pick in the draft next July. The tiebreaker would be worse record the previous year and both tied at 25-35 in 2020, but the O’s had the worse record in 2019.

The Haniger two-run single was pretty exciting and here it is.

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