After an ugly night from the Orioles pitching staff on Friday, the O’s needed a bounce back effort from their hurlers Saturday. John Means, Yennier Cano and Cionel Pérez delivered that and then some, combining to one-hit the Guardians in a 2-1 win.
John Means was the big story Saturday night and for good reason. Making only his third Orioles start since coming back from Tommy John surgery, Means took a no-hitter into the 6th and baffled Cleveland hitters all night. After getting through the 1st inning on only five pitches, the 30-year-old left-hander got two quick outs in the 2nd before striking out 3B Tyler Freeman to end the inning.
The Guardians got their first base runner in the bottom of the 3rd when CF Myles Straw worked a four-pitch walk. Means was hardly rattled though, getting C Cam Gallagher to pop-up to third on the very next pitch and then K’d LF Steven Kwan to end the 3rd. Working against the top of the Guardians lineup, Means got two quick outs on balls hit to RF—including a nice running snag from Santander. The lefty then punctuated the inning with another K, striking out RF Ramón Laureano to complete four no-hit innings.
The Guardians picked up their second base runner in the bottom of the 5th when Means hit SS Gabriel Arias with a fastball that rode in on his hands. The Orioles former ace remained unfazed though, getting Straw to ground to first to keep the no-hitter going. Cleveland worked the count in the 6th inning, forcing Means to throw 17 pitches, but all they got out of was a pair of groundouts and fly out to left.
When Means came back out for the 7th, it really started to feel like Means could do what he did two years ago in Seattle and complete a no-hitter. The first two batters of that inning went to script, with 1B Josh Naylor grounding out to second on one pitch and Laureano going down on a ground out to third. However, that’s when Means and the pitching staff experienced their one and only mistake of the night. Means left a changeup over the plate to former All-Star 2B Andrés Giménez, who launched it into LF to break up the no-no.
John Means carried a no-hit bid into the 7th inning and picked up the win in his third start back from Tommy John surgery. pic.twitter.com/i24sPbR0ww— MLB (@MLB) September 24, 2023
Means would finish out the 7th and even got the first out of the 8th before giving way to Cano and Pérez. After blowing the save on Friday, Cano got the final two outs of the 8th by getting pinch hitter Will Brennan to fly out to left and then striking another pinch hitter in Kole Calhoun. Pérez took over things in the bottom of the 9th and looked like his best, dominant self. The hard-throwing lefty faced the top of the Guardians order and set down Kwan with a grounder to first and DH José Ramírez with a fly out to center. Naylor made the last out tough for Perez, but on the seventh pitch of the AB, Pérez got him to ground out to first to end the game.
After exploding for eight runs and 10 hits in Friday’s loss, the bats fell quiet again Saturday night. However, Anthony Satander provided two clutch hits and those runs proved to be enough to back Means and the bullpen. The O’s started the game looking like they were in for a big offensive day. Gunner Henderson led off the top of the 1st with a walk. Then Adley Rutschman singled through the left side to give the O’s two early base runners. Santander then launched a 0-2 splitter deep into RF for a double, scoring Henderson and giving the O’s two runners in scoring position.
Tony turned on the sprinklers! pic.twitter.com/RKDwQlIUwr— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) September 23, 2023
However, the early scoring threat evaporated as quickly as it came. Rutschman was cut down at the plate for the first out on a Ryan O’Hearn grounder to first base. Cedric Mullins then swung through a 3-2 splitter and Aaron Hicks flew out to center field to leave the runners stranded at second and third.
That was an early theme for the Orioles offense against Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill—leaving runners stranded. In the top of the third, Santander hit a one-out single and Mullins and Hicks worked two-out walks to load the bases. However, Ramón Urías couldn’t capitalize, grounding out to shortstop to leave all three runners stranded. The O’s had another two-out scoring threat in the top of the 4th, thanks to a single from Henderson and a walk from Rutschman. Santander didn’t come through like he did in the 1st, striking out on a high fastball to leave two more stranded.
All the walks and early hits ended up chasing Quantrill after four innings. Santander then finally came through again in the top of the 6th, this time against the Cleveland bullpen. James McCann started the rally with a soft single into center. Rutshcman followed his fellow catcher’s lead, sending his second opposite single through the infield to give the O’s two on with two outs. Santander then took a 2-1 fastball from Xzavion Curry back up the middle to score McCann and double the Orioles lead.
The win had an extra sense of satisfaction after Tampa Bay came from behind to steal a win against Toronto. Thanks to the brilliance of Means and the bullpen, the O’s divisional lead stays at 1.5 games and shrinks the magic number to clinch the AL East down to five. It also extends the Orioles AL-record “not swept” streak to 89. Perhaps more important than any of that, it shows how big of a factor John Means could be in the upcoming postseason run. For a pitching staff that constantly seems to be looking for answers, Means provide all the right answers Saturday.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, September 23rd?
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No, but seriously, JOHN MEANS