If you’re taking a few minutes to pay attention to the Orioles because left-hander John Means no-hit the Mariners on Wednesday, then here’s a quick rundown to catch you up:
— The O’s are 15-16 for the season and one game behind the Yankees for second place in the American League East entering New York’s game Wednesday night against the Astros. The tank may be slowing with third-year manager Brandon Hyde at the controls.
— Means, 28, has fashioned a 1.37 ERA to go with a 4-0 record in seven starts in 2021. He’s the O’s most recent All-Star, having represented Baltimore at the 2019 game, and is well on his way to a second selection in July.
— First baseman/DH Trey Mancini, who broke open Wednesday’s game with a three-run homer in the eighth inning, is already the AL Comeback Player of the Year for returning from cancer.
— Baltimore has one of MLB’s best bullpens based on ERA, anchored by closer Cesar Valdez, although it got the day off as Means took care of the M’s in his first career complete game.
Means finished the franchise’s first no-hitter in 30 years (and the first solo no-no since Jim Palmer in 1969) on his 113th pitch of the day. Seattle shortstop J.P. Crawford lined out softly to Baltimore shortstop Ramon Urias.
He allowed one baserunner — Sam Haggerty reached on a wild pitch after a strikeout in the third inning. Haggerty was caught stealing, so Means faced the minimum 27 batters. According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via MLB.com), Means’ no-hitter is the first non-perfect no-hit game in baseball history where the opposing team didn’t record a walk or hit batsman or reach on an error.
“I can’t put it into words,” Means said. “I can’t do it. It’s such a crazy feeling. It’s such a whirlwind of an experience, and I don’t think I’ve been able to process it yet. But to be in the same breath as Palmer, I don’t think that gets much better than that.”
Means began his season with seven shutout innings in the O’s opener vs. the Red Sox, who now lead the East, and Wednesday was his third scoreless outing of the year. He is the clear leader of this rotation.
“We’re in the third year of [rebuilding] and to have somebody that can go shut down an offense in the way he’s been doing it . . . that’s the feeling you’re getting with John right now,” Hyde told reporters, per MLB.com “You go to the ballpark [and] Means is on the mound, it’s going to be a fun night.”
The group is weak overall, however. No. 2 starter Matt Harvey (4.06 ERA) is writing his own comeback tale, but Bruce Zimmermann (5.40 ERA), Jorge Lopez (6.49 ERA) and Dean Kremer (6.43 ERA) have dragged the unit down.
The bullpen’s 3.35 ERA is fifth in the AL, but it will be difficult to sustain that success over a season if the back-end starters keep struggling. Plus, Means figures to revert to, well, the mean at some point, and which way will Harvey go?
Hyde and vice president/GM Mike Elias are working to find solutions to those problems and questions as they try to keep the O’s competitive for as long as possible — and probably longer than expected.
This article has been updated with postgame quotes and additional information.