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Sunday afternoon Orioles game thread: vs Texas, 1:05

John Means gets the ball in the last game against the lowly Rangers before the Orioles play six against the AL East to end the season.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Baltimore Orioles Daniel Kucin Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

Turns out it is kind of nice to pick on teams your own size. Against the uncompetitive Rangers, the Orioles have managed to take two of three in this four-game series so far, and it well could have been three if the Orioles bullpen hadn’t allowed five runs in the ninth inning on Thursday. Bad as this team has been, it turns out that a limp Texas offense has an even tougher time scoring runs.

In Game 4, Texas sends the righty Dane Dunning (5-8, 4.34 ERA) to the hill. In 23 starts (25 appearances) for Texas this season, Dunning, who must shop at the same place Zac Lowther does for glasses, has a 1.43 WHIP and 106 strikeouts in 110 innings. He hasn’t been used longer than 2.2 innings since August, though: this could be Texas deciding Dunning has value as an opener or it could be late-season caution by a team that, like the Orioles, has a lot of pitchers on the IL right now. (CC’s Drew Bonifant, in his series preview, called this series the “Oh, God, this season is still going?” Classic, and if any AL teams need a mercy kill to 2021, it’s these.)

The Orioles have faced Dunning once this season, on April 17, when Dunning threw six innings of one-run baseball in a game his team still proceeded to lose 6-1. For what it’s worth, Dunning won’t be facing the likes of DJ Stewart, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, or Rio Ruiz (who all started on April 17) today. Meanwhile, two of the unlucky Texas bullpen arms, onetime Oriole farmhand Joely Rodriguez and Brett de Gues, who blew that game in April are no longer with the team. Lots of roster turnover for not-good teams.

It’s great news for John Means that his latest renaissance coincides with a start against the AL’s worst offense in Texas. Means’ last time facing this team was on April 18, when he threw seven scoreless innings and struck out nine. In his last six starts, Means has a 2.70 ERA and he’s been silencing better offenses than this one—Tampa Bay, New York, Atlanta, Philly. With a 3.68 FIP in that stretch, he’s been the beneficiary of good fielding, but his strikeout numbers are gradually ticking back up to where they can and should be.

Orioles lineup

1. Ryan McKenna CF
2. Ryan Mountcastle DH
3. Austin Hays LF
4. Anthony Santander RF
5. Trey Mancini 1B
6. Pedro Severino C
7. Pat Valaika 2B
8. Kélvin Gutiérrez 3B
9. Richie Martin SS

Rangers lineup

1. Yonny Fernández 2B
2. Isiah Kiner-Falefa SS
3. Adolis García RF
4. Nathaniel Lowe DH
5. Andy Ibáñez 1B
6. José Trevino C
7. Willie Calhoun LF
8. Charlie Culberson 3B
9. Leody Taveras CF