Mariners no-hit by O's 'incredible' Means

May 6th, 2021

SEATTLE -- The scene on Wednesday at T-Mobile Park was reminiscent of one of the most memorable moments in Mariners history -- a matinee weekday crowd and a buzz to what was occurring on the pitcher’s mound that grew from a faint murmur to an applauding roar.

Only this time, Seattle was on the other side of history.

All that kept Baltimore’s John Means from throwing the first perfect game in the Majors since Félix Hernández went the distance on that same mound on Aug. 15, 2012, was a wild pitch on a strikeout that allowed Sam Haggerty to reach first base in the third. That’s it.

Means still held on to no-hit Seattle in a 6-0 win, marking the third time in franchise history that the Mariners were held hitless by a single pitcher. They were twice no-hit in combined efforts in 2019. The O’s left-hander struck out 12 and needed 113 pitches (79 strikes) to cap the third no-no in MLB this season.

“He was awesome today, there's no question about it,” said Kyle Seager, who had two groundouts to first base and one strikeout. “He was ahead of us all day. We were behind pretty much every single count. He was spinning it. His fastball had some good life. He was throwing changeups for strikes. A lot of swing and miss. A lot of just missing balls underneath everything. I mean, he was obviously very good.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Means became the first pitcher to throw a non-perfect no-hitter in which the opposing team did not reach base by a walk, a hit by pitch or an error. Essentially, it was the first time in Major League history that a perfect game was broken up by a dropped third strike that allowed a runner to reach.

But in the moment, it seemed like small potatoes: Haggerty was Means’ eighth batter of the game and was hustling like he always does.

This wasn’t the Mariners’ first shot at Means this season. They actually got the best of him in their first meeting on April 13, a 4-3 win. That day, he gave up five hits for three runs, including homers to Ty France and Tom Murphy. But in four starts since, Means has padded his résumé into one of the best in the American League.

“This isn't a fluky thing,” Seager said. “Him being in the [AL] East -- and especially with last year, us not traveling at all -- there weren’t a whole lot of at-bats off him. So you go into our first at-bat this year, and really looking at it, he was good. He was really good.”

Beyond the historical significance, Wednesday represented the Mariners’ collective offensive struggles finally coming to a head. They finished their homestand 31-for-182 (.170) and compiled an on-base percentage of just .254 over this six-game stretch. Eight homers helped push their slugging percentage to .330 since Friday. But key contributors continue to struggle.

The only close call that Means had was a long flyout by Kyle Lewis that landed one step shy of the left-field wall in the eighth inning. The Mariners had just one hard-hit ball all afternoon: a 96.5 mph pop out by France in the fourth inning.

“He was in control all day,” Seager said. “I mean, I don't even think we hardly had any balls that were close to getting hits. So I mean, he was pretty incredible.”

France, who had been Seattle’s tone-setter in April, went hitless on the homestand in 25 plate appearances, dropping his OPS from .878 to .746.

Four of the Mariners’ nine hitters Wednesday -- Lewis, Murphy, Evan White and Dylan Moore -- have a batting average below .200, and two more regular contributors (Taylor Trammell and José Marmolejos) are also below the Mendoza Line. Collectively, Seattle is hitting .201/.281/.359 with an 87 wRC+ (league average is 100) through 1,003 at-bats over its first 32 games.

“That’s something [Robinson] Canó used to talk about all the time -- you look up at the end of the year, your numbers will be where they're supposed to be,” Seager said. “You can look at it as a negative, or you can look at it as, ‘Hey, we're only hitting .201 and we're still winning ballgames.’ The offense will come around. That's the law of averages. So I mean obviously that’s not a great start, but you can flip that as well.”