Rays rain down on Means’ rusty parade in 9-3 win over the Orioles
John Means returned to the Orioles on Tuesday. Good kind of.
The man was back on the mound in Tampa Bay. But the resulting performance showed Means still has some work to do before he gets back into shape.
Means, making his comeback from a sore shoulder that had sidelined him since early June, looked rusty as he struggled at the start of what became a 9-3 loss for the Orioles against the Rays, tying their streak after Baltimore won Game 1.
Means played five innings and allowed five runs, all earned, but it wasn’t just a collection of bad rebounds and blooping shots, although there were some too. The Rays were well aware of what Means was going to throw at them, constantly shooting balls and taking advantage of the southpaw’s location below what he had demonstrated before his injury.
It started in the first, with Randy Arozarena starting the round with a double in left field. Vidal Brujan followed with a soft left single, allowing Arozarena to score, and Austin Meadows hit a deep volley down the center that Cedric Mullins made a nice catch, although his throwback missed the cut man. , sending Brujan to the third. Wander Franco then lined up to the right for a sacrifice fly, scoring Brujan to make it 2-0, and Brandon Lowe hit a brace on the center-field wall but was blocked before the Rays could deal more damage. .
Throughout the round it was not the sharp, black ways we saw in April and May. Arozarena’s brace came on a change that floated into the zone rather than falling, and Lowe’s brace came on a fastball that Pedro Severino wanted down, but Means instead let it drift up the zone. .
The trend continued in the third, with the Orioles falling 2-1. Severino called for a fastball on the inside black from the hitting right-hander Arozarena, but Means instead caught too much plate, and Arozarena hit him 418 feet for a home run and a 3-1 lead at Tampa Bay.
In the fourth, Lowe started with a single down center, and Means tried to throw a down-and-away change for backup receiver Francisco Mejia who wasn’t far enough and not down at all. Mejia crushed him on the left for a two-run homer, on a five-run night, and the Orioles lost 5-1.
It was all the damage Means suffered, and there was nothing so disturbing or problematic: he was just rusty, and it showed. Many pitchers take a while to regain their rhythm after returning, and although rehabilitation begins to help shorten this adjustment period, they do not eliminate it. It was strange to see Means struggle, however, in the areas where he had been so good.
Even with their struggling ace, the Orioles hitters flirted with a comeback, but were denied the big blow that could have changed the direction and fortunes of the game. In the second, Anthony Santander scored a brace with two strikeouts and went third on a passed ball, and Severino selected him to make it 2-1. Baltimore was threatening even more, with Pat Valaika shooting a goal and Kelvin Gutierrez being hit by a pitch, but Mullins sniffed a high fastball to leave the bases loaded and reduce the rally.
In the third, Austin Hays hit an error and Trey Mancini shot a right single, but Ryan Mountcastle struck out and Santander made a double play to end the threat. In the fourth, Ramon Urias reached on a mistake and went second on a passed ball, but Severino and Valaika struck out and Gutierrez flew to the warning lane on the right.
In the eighth, with Tampa Bay ahead 5-1, the Orioles found a little behind. Hays moved up to third and got two goals off a wild Franco throw, and after Mancini flew off, Mountcastle’s harmless flying ball on the right was dropped by Lowe, bringing Hays home. Santander followed with a brace off the wall in right center fielder that marked Mountcastle, closing the gap to 5-3, but after a walk from Urias, Tampa Bay called in right-hander Pete Fairbanks to escape the jam. That’s exactly what he did, making Severino, then pinch hitter DJ Stewart, look at a 3-2 ball to keep the two-point lead.
The Rays put the game out of reach in the eighth, charging goals against Shaun Anderson. Mejia (him again) hit a line in space that was only a few feet, maybe inches, from being within range of a sprinting Mullins. Instead, he fell for a baseline triple, and Ji-Man Choi ended up picking at Mejia for the final margin of 9-3.
Aside from Santander’s two-hit game and Cesar Valdez’s two scoreless innings, there weren’t many bright spots for the Birds. Means didn’t have it tonight, but he’ll be back on the mound soon enough. Hopefully when he does he’ll be back to show off the same combination of movement and location that got him through some great April and May.