John Means grinds through five innings before O’s bullpen undermines the effort

John Means grinds through five innings before O’s bullpen undermines the effort

BALTIMORE — Left-hander John Means grinded through five innings against the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, only for a thinned Baltimore Orioles bullpen to surrender the lead over the final four frames.

With leverage relievers Tyler Wells and Tanner Scott still on the mend, Orioles Manager Brandon Hyde tasked right-hander Conner Greene with holding a three-run advantage in his third major league outing. Four batters later, Nelson Cruz rocketed a three-run home run to left to tie the game. After Paul Fry loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, Cruz struck a tiebreaking two-run double off Dillon Tate. The game devolved into a 10-6 loss for the Orioles, their ninth in 10 clashes with the Rays.

"We struggled out of the 'pen," Hyde said. "That was definitely a disappointing loss."

Means needed 94 pitches to get through five innings, pitching around trouble throughout his outing. His 2.79 ERA is the lowest by an Oriole through 16 starts since 2007. The only time Tampa Bay broke through against him was in the second, when Manuel Margot bunted for a single, Mike Zunino doubled and both scored when Means failed to catch Ryan Mountcastle's toss to the bag on an infield single.

He bemoaned his fastball command, noting that he was often leaving the pitch up, which made his off-speed stuff less effective.

"It was the definition of a grind," Means said. "That's what happens when the fastball command just isn't quite there. Wasn't commanding in well, wasn't commanding low and away well. I had to use every pitch from pitch one to pitch 94 but wasn't really able to get in a groove. This team's pesky. They've gotten me last couple times, just a lot of hits. But I'm proud of grinding it through."