Just moments after Orioles starter John Means pitched another gem, the airwaves lit up with fans concerned about the prospect of him being traded in the coming months.
Means has been one the most dominant pitchers in all of MLB, allowing one run or fewer in eight of his last nine starts dating back to September 2020. Means shut down the red-hot Oakland Athletics April 25 before the bats came alive late in an 8-1 win.
Means, 28, is under club control for three more years beyond 2021. Fans hope the rebuilding club keeps him around instead of making another deal for more prospects at the trade deadline.
“I know that he expects a lot out of himself, probably a little hard on himself at times, but the way he’s throwing the baseball right now, you feel good about your chances when John Means is on the mound, because this is a guy who’s going to pound the strike zone and be really competitive and have multiple pitches to mix,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s just doing a great job.”
Means is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, which ranks third among all starting pitchers in MLB. He has 29 strikeouts and nine walks with a 0.90 WHIP. Means has also pitched into the seventh inning in three of his five starts.
“It was nice kind of finishing off the season strong and going into this season with confidence and getting back to who I am as a pitcher,” Means said. “I just feel very comfortable right now with mentality and stuff. Just try to keep that going.”
Means quietly goes about his work and is not worried about being featured on the national highlight shows. However, his current role suits him just fine in Baltimore.
“I couldn’t care less,” he said of national attention. “I just like playing the game, to be honest with you, and I want to play it as long as I can. So as long as I’m playing, as long as I’m performing, I couldn’t care less what anybody cares about it.”
Hays, Mullins Spark Outfield, Lineup
Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins have emerged as a dynamic outfield duo for the Orioles.
The two young players are making plays on defense and with their bats.
In a 4-2 victory against the Yankees April 26, Hays and Mullins had perfect communication before one of the critical sequences of the game. Gio Urshela had a bases-loaded single to left field in the eighth that scored Clint Frazier, but Hays threw out Aaron Judge at third base. Home plate umpire Will Little ruled that Maikel Franco’s tag came before DJ LeMahieu scored the potential third run.
That took some pressure off the bullpen as César Valdez earned a four-out save for the Orioles, who improved to 4-13 at home against the Yankees since the beginning of the 2019 season.
“It was huge. I think that was the game-saving play,” Mullins said. “It was a matter of us communicating out there and he had an idea of what he wanted to do with the ball well before it came to him. He saw the opportunity to get him out at third and that’s exactly what he did.”
Mullins had a pair of homers and a double in the game, raising his average to .365 this season.
Hays has also boosted the club with his bat. On April 25, he hit a pair of home runs in an 8-1 victory against Oakland, snapping the Athletics’ 13-game winning streak.
Hays has been hampered by injuries throughout his young career, but he’s hopeful those challenges are behind him. He is batting .242/.286/.455 with two home runs and five RBIs in 33 at-bats. Opponents are becoming more reluctant to run on him.
Mullins has helped Hays make some adjustments at the plate.
“I was talking to Cedric in the dugout and I told him I felt like I just wasn’t seeing the ball that well,” Hays said referring to the game on April 24, one day before his two-homer game. “And he’s like, ‘Why don’t you just try walking up to the plate a little bit slower, and all the stuff you do before, just try to slow it down.’ And I saw the ball a lot better my last at-bat last night and then I just felt very comfortable.”
The Orioles are also comfortable with Hays and Mullins in the lineup.
Matt Harvey is resurrecting his career in Baltimore.
The veteran right-hander allowed one run and three hits while striking out five and walking three in the 4-2 victory against the Yankees April 26. Harvey won consecutive starts for the first time since winning four in a row with Cincinnati from June 21-July 13, 2018.
“It’s probably the best I felt in a couple of years,” Harvey said. “Just everything was working well. Mechanically, I felt good, felt strong throughout the whole outing. I was able to throw strikes when I needed to, guys made plays behind me and it was a good team effort.”
Harvey is 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA and appears to be more comfortable on the mound with each start. He’s put the Orioles in a position to win in each of his outings this season.
“He’s a competitor and he competes with what he’s got,” Hyde said. “He knows how to pitch. He’s continuing to get stronger every outing.”
Confidence In Scott Hasn’t Wavered
Orioles reliever Tanner Scott walked the bases loaded in the eighth inning against the Yankees April 26 before minimizing the damage in the 4-2 victory.
Scott has shown some control issues recently, walking six batters during his past two outings. This season, he has 11 strikeouts and 10 walks in 8.2 innings while walking allowing four runs (three earned).
Nonetheless, Hyde has not lost confidence in Scott.
“I’m going to continue to throw him out there in big spots,” Hyde said. “I believe in the arm, I believe in the kid. He’s had a couple of rough ones with some command, but a huge punchout on [Rougned] Odor. That showed me a lot right there, with the bases loaded to be able to throw those sliders he did left-on-left. We believe in Tanner’s ability. I think he’s a back-end, late-inning-with-the-lead type of guy, and he’s got that kind of stuff and he’s going to continue to get those experiences.”
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox