The Orioles, if you haven’t heard, are now mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. The games officially matter for nothing except to maybe, hopefully, if they’re lucky, start to zero in on some players who could be a part of the next good Orioles team. Under the microscope are guys like Hanser Alberto, Renato Núñez, and especially starting pitcher John Means. All three were among the big contributors as the O’s flipped a 7-1 defeat on Friday into a 7-1 victory on Saturday.
The post-All-Star break struggles of Means are one of the bigger downers about the team over the last month. He entered Saturday night with only one quality start since the break. If Means comes out of nowhere to be a decent part of a future good O’s rotation, that’s one fewer pitcher they have to mine from the farm or from the free agent market. If he fizzles out, they’ve lost nothing compared to what they thought they had in February, but it’d still be a bummer.
One good game against a good team like the Rays doesn’t mean that Means has solved whatever health or effectiveness problems he has been battling. Still, it’s noteworthy that he followed up a string of crummy starts with a seven inning game where he struck out seven batters, both tying season and career highs for the 26-year-old lefty.
Means gave up five hits and walked none, with his lone run scoring on a solo home run that was hit, annoyingly, by #9 hitter Michael Brosseau, who has stunk against everyone but the Orioles in the early days of his MLB career. He’s hit seven home runs in 127 at-bats and four have come against the Orioles. The home run did, of course, extend the Orioles MLB record for home runs allowed. Such things sting a lot less after the O’s win the game.
The O’s never trailed in this one, taking advantage of the wildness of Rays opener Jose Alvarado to get on the board before they even made an out. Alberto, noteworthy for seldom walking, led off the game, took third on a Jonathan Villar single, and scored on a wild pitch. Alvarado got only one out before walking Nunez, during which he unloaded another wild pitch.
After Alvarado went 3-0 to DJ Stewart, Rays manager Kevin Cash had seen enough and went for the quick hook for his opener. Cash just went ahead and intentionally walked Stewart during the pitching change. Alvarado threw just nine strikes in 24 pitches. Tough going.
New Rays pitcher Austin Pruitt entered with the bases loaded and one out. He did a fine job of snuffing out the rally by getting catcher Pedro Severino to ground into a double play and end the inning. This could have easily turned into a frustrating and disappointing thing if Means had pitched like the Means of earlier August.
As it worked out, Means was good, and Severino even got a chance at redemption when the Orioles loaded the bases against Pruitt in the third inning. Alberto led off with a single, and after a pair of strikeouts by O’s batters, advanced to third on a Núñez single. In the course of another Stewart walk, Núñez stole second base and hilariously held up one finger to the O’s dugout. It was his first stolen base in the 214th game of his MLB career.
Severino did not miss his chance at redemption. He fouled off the first pitch he saw and then launched the second one into the left field seats for the first grand slam of his career. Severino flipped his bat, shared his excitement with the dugout on the way down the baseline, and generally made the most of his 11th home run of the season.
One thing that I enjoy about this Orioles team is that, although they are bad, they are not dour or morose when good things are happening to them. The home run celebration here is a big sign of how Brandon Hyde keeps everybody ready to enjoy the positives. Why shouldn’t fans enjoy them too? I love the gregarious home run celebrations and Núñez getting hype about his stolen base and all of the “get on base, look at the dugout, and pull the lawnmower cord” moves. The team does, mostly, stink, but they don’t always stink.
The next inning after the Severino slam, the Orioles had back-to-back home runs on back-to-back pitches to pad out their lead to 7-0. Alberto socked a dinger for the tenth time this season and fourth time since August 12. He was homerless in 192 MLB plate appearances before this season. Villar followed up with a homer, his 19th of the season, continuing his quest for a 20 home run/20 stolen base season. He’s already got the 20+ steals.
There have been games this year where scoring seven runs would not have been enough for the Orioles to win. This was not one of them. Means gave up his one solo dinger to Brosseau and that was it. Hunter Harvey, bearing the nickname “Squirrel” on his Player’s Weekend jersey, added his third scoreless inning in as many MLB games, picking up a strikeout in the process. Mychal Givens contributed a 1-2-3 inning in the non-save situation to finish it off.
The MASN broadcast showed a couple of fans in the stands who were wearing mullet wigs, at least one of whom was in a Harvey shirsey. Harvey’s current neck-up aesthetic bears a strong resemblance to the character of Kenny Powers from Eastbound and Down, a resemblance that I have gathered from his Twitter feed that he enjoys.
The Orioles are 42-88, sporting the second-worst record in MLB, and there are guys showing up at the stadium with fake hair to honor a pitcher with all of three relief outings in his MLB career. No one who chooses to be grouchy about that fact would be wrong, exactly. They would definitely be missing out on some fun. We shouldn’t forget how to have fun with baseball while the team is bad. The team certainly hasn’t forgotten.
The O’s and Rays close out the series starting at 1:05 on Sunday afternoon. Tonight’s win gives the O’s a chance to pull off a split in the series. The Rays are expected to patch together a game starting with an unknown opener again, while Dylan Bundy is scheduled to start for the Orioles. The Rays fell from the #1 wild card spot into a tie for the #2 wild card spot with this loss, so the O’s can play a little spoiler role this far out from season’s end.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for August 24, 2019?
This poll is closed
Pedro Severino (first career grand slam)
Hanser Alberto (10th homer, generally awesome 2019 season)
John Means (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO)