John Means means business.
The Baltimore Orioles left-hander is showing his trip to the All-Star Game as a rookie in 2019 was no fluke.
Means (3-0, 1.70 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound Wednesday afternoon as the Orioles wrap up a three-game series against the host Seattle Mariners.
Baltimore won the series opener 5-3 on Monday before Seattle prevailed 5-2 on Tuesday. Means, 28, will hope to give the Orioles a second consecutive series win as they conclude a six-game road trip.
“I just think he’s completely matured as a major league pitcher, and he’s still continuing to get better,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “He doesn’t have a whole lot of major league experience, and he’s just improving. …
“You see a pitcher developing at the big league level every time out. Last year, he was overthrowing, made the adjustment. This year, he’s really executing pitching. If he needs to elevate, he elevates. If he needs to dump in a breaking ball, he can dump in a breaking ball. He’s still got a changeup.
“He’s turning into a complete pitcher.”
Means went 12-11 with a 3.60 ERA as a rookie. He never seemed to get untracked during last year’s pandemic-shortened season, going 2-4 with a 4.53 ERA.
He credits a better mentality with his improvement this season.
“I think last year, I would get really frustrated when things weren’t going well,” Means said. “I’ve done a good job with staying within myself, letting the game come to me. I’m just not making any moment too big, even with guys on base.”
Means has allowed just seven singles and a walk in 38 plate appearances with an opposing runner on base this season. Five of the seven runs he has allowed came on solo homers.
The only two AL starting pitchers with better ERAs than Means this season are the Kansas City Royals’ Danny Duffy (4-1, 0.60) and the New York Yankees’ Gerrit Cole (4-1, 1.43).
“It feels pretty good, but I don’t want to sit back and look at it,” Means said.
Means, who is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two career starts against the Mariners, will be opposed Wednesday by Seattle lefty Yusei Kikuchi (1-1, 4.40 ERA). Kikuchi allowed three runs on five hits in six innings during lone career start against Baltimore, a 13-3 win on June 23, 2019.
Kikuchi is coming off one of the best starts of his three years in the majors as he allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings Thursday during a 1-0 road victory over the Houston Astros. Kikuchi walked two and struck out seven. The lone hit came on a double by Carlos Correa in the seventh.
That start came just hours after Mariners No. 1 starter Marco Gonzales was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a left forearm strain.
“I think not just myself, but the entire staff, definitely needs to step up,” Kikuchi said through an interpreter. “We need to go out and go deep into ballgames — an extra inning, or even just an extra out. I think we need to have the entire staff all just step up and contribute until Marco comes back.”
Mariners manager Scott Servais said what stood out to him was Kikuchi’s competitiveness.
“It doesn’t get any bigger than that to shut that team down and take a no-hitter into the seventh against one of the better lineups in the American League,” Servais said.
–Field Level Media