The Orioles bats scuffled once again, and John Means got off to a slow start as the O’s dropped Game 1 of their Tuesday doubleheader 4-3 to the Mariners at Camden Yards.
Means was supposed to pitch the second game of this series. But the rainout on Monday allowed Brandon Hyde to flip his starters and instead hand Means the ball to begin the opener of the four-game set against the Mariners. Perhaps that was not a wise decision for the lefty, who struggled early.
The Orioles ace was ambushed by the Mariners offense. Each of the first three hitters made contact with exit velocities exceeding 100 mph. Mitch Haniger led off with a fly out, Ty France followed with a solo home run, and Kyle Seager reached on a hard single. Fortunately for Means, that all added up to just one run of offense despite less than ideal pitch location.
Tom Murphy continued the hard hitting to lead-off the second inning, smacking a 2-0 elevated fastball into the Camden Yards bleachers to double the Mariners advantage. The 106.7-mph exit velocity on the round tripper was the hardest hit ball of the game.
But the Seattle offense wasn’t done just yet. Evan White worked a one-out walk, moved to second on a J.P. Crawford single, and then scored on a Haniger base hit to give the visitors a 3-0 lead. A team that entered the day with a league-worst .456 OPS against left-handed pitchers was all over the O’s former all-star.
Instead, it was the Orioles that were having trouble against an opposing southpaw.
Through the first four innings the O’s had just three baserunners against Justus Sheffield, and two of them were the same player. That player was, of course, Cedric Mullins.
Both times Mullins reached base was to lead off an inning. The O’s centerfielder made it to first on an infield single in the first, and then walked to begin the fourth. Both times he was immediately erased by a Trey Mancini double play to third base. The first baseman’s MLB lead in GIDP, unfortunately, remains safe.
The Orioles offense would eventually breakthrough against Sheffield in the fifth inning.
With one out, Ryan Mountcastle came within feet of leaving the yard on a laser to deep center field that, according to Baseball Savant, had an expected batting average of .900. But the DH wound up in that unlucky 10% as his fly ball landed in the glove of M’s center fielder Taylor Trammell instead.
It was Ramon Urias that got the O’s on the board shortly thereafter. DJ Stewart walked in front of him, and then Urias launched a sinker in the middle of the zone into the right field bleachers to bring the good guys within a single run on the second home run of his MLB career.
Meanwhile, Means settled down. He recorded the final out of the second inning and then tossed three straight perfect frames to get through the fifth. He was only lifted following an inning-opening walk in the sixth. The 27-year-old’s final line read five innings, five hits, three runs, two walks, five strikeouts, two home runs.
Means was not at his best. But it sure looked like it was going to be a lot worse. He figured things out eventually and dominated during his second trip through the Seattle lineup. If the Orioles hitters weren’t currently in the midst of a two-week long funk this performance might have ended with a win, but instead the lefty took the no-decision.
His bullpen did well to back him up. Travis Lakins Sr. looked dominant in his first major league appearance of the season, and Paul Fry was equally effective from the left side.
That allowed the O’s to have one final bite at the apple in the bottom of the seventh inning, and they took advantage. Mountcastle kicked off a miniature two-out rally with a double laced into the left field corner and came in to score moments later on a single off the bat of fellow 2015 first-round draft pick DJ Stewart. But they could do no further damage.
Tanner Scott came in to pitch the 8th inning with a runner, Haniger, on second base. After striking out France, Seager doubled to deep left field to score Haniger. Mullins played the bounce off the wall poorly. Had it been a cleaner play, there was a chance that Haniger would have to stay at third. Instead, the Mariners took the lead 4-3 and wouldn’t give it back.
The Orioles took their turn at bat in the 8th and did everything but get a hit. Mullins, Mancini, and Anthony Santander struck balls with an expected batting average of .520, .690, and .430, respectively. None of them fell in, and the O’s dropped the opener.
Game 2 starts in just a few minutes. Dean Kremer pitches for the O’s. He will be opposed by lefty Nick Margevicius. Hopefully the Birds can salvage something from the day.