The Baltimore Orioles will turn to ace John Means on Wednesday when they host the Tampa Bay Rays in the middle game of a three-game series.
With their bats coming to life on the last homestand, the Rays carried the momentum north and put up eight runs in the first three innings in Tuesday’s series opener, cruising to a 13-6 rout of the Orioles.
Tampa Bay earned its fifth victory in a row while Baltimore lost for the fifth time in six games.
By giving the ball to Means, Baltimore will have its best chance of knotting the series.
Means (4-0, 1.21 ERA) authored the club’s best moment of 2021 on May 5 in Seattle when he fired the Orioles’ first solo no-hitter since Hall of Famer Jim Palmer had one against the Oakland Athletics on Aug. 13, 1969.
Means, 28, faced the minimum 27 batters in the outing, with the Mariners’ Sam Haggerty reaching base on a dropped third strike in the third inning. Haggerty was immediately caught stealing, and Means retired the next 19 batters to etch his name in history.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first non-perfect no-hitter in which the opposing club failed to reach base by a walk, hit batter or error.
In 35 1/3 innings over his past five starts, Means has yielded just three runs and 14 hits while fanning 39 and walking six.
The left-hander, who is 3-0 with a 0.76 ERA in that span, credits new pitching coach Chris Holt for the current success.
“I think every pitch that I throw now has been changed because of him in a better way,” Means said.
On Sunday, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde refused to comment on the 49-year-old Holt, who missed his second series over the weekend while tending to a personal matter.
In five career appearances against the Rays, four of them starts, Means is 3-1 with a 3.25 ERA, with batters hitting just .208.
Baltimore outfielder Anthony Santander finished his three-day injury rehab at Double-A Bowie and is expected back for the weekend series against the host Washington Nationals.
In swatting a season-high five home runs on Tuesday, the Rays improved to 11-1 when going yard at least twice in a game.
“Guys have done a great job of staying positive, and I’m trusting my mechanics,” said catcher Mike Zunino, who hit two homers to give him a team-leading 10.
Added manager Kevin Cash of Zunino: “I see a guy that’s confident in his ability. He should be. There aren’t many guys who can hit it as hard as he does.”
In his ninth appearance this season, Ryan Yarbrough (2-3, 4.20 ERA) will take the ball Wednesday for his fifth start. The left-hander is 3-1 with a 3.24 ERA in eight career outings, including three starts, against the Orioles.
Yarbrough’s most recent appearance came in relief on May 12, when he threw 3 1/3 scoreless innings against the New York Yankees.
Rays reliever Cody Reed struck out two and walked two in the eighth inning Tuesday but left with numbness in his fingertips. Cash said he expects the lefty to land on the injured list.
Tampa Bay right-hander Michael Wacha (hamstring) is expected to pitch live batting practice or a simulated game in Baltimore and could return soon in a long relief role with the emergence of starters Shane McClanahan and Luis Patino.
–Field Level Media