If the Orioles’ losing streak isn’t going to end with John Means on the mound, who is going to stop it?
That’s the question the O’s were asking themselves Sunday afternoon, after their 3-1 series finale loss to the Braves extended Baltimore’s losing streak to 18 games, longest in the Majors this season. The Orioles became the first team to lose at least 18 straight since the 2005 Royals, and are now three games away from matching their franchise and American League record 21-game losing streak set in 1988.
“I thought today was going to be the day,” Means said. “It didn't really add a whole lot of extra pressure at this point. I just went out there trying to control the game for the most part and stay in attack mode.”
Sunday’s defeat was the fourth of the streak behind Means, who lost his third straight decision despite holding Atlanta to three runs on four hits and two walks over six-plus innings. The only support came in the form of Ramón Urías’ fourth-inning RBI double off Braves starter Touki Toussaint, who combined with five relievers to induce three key double plays and secure Atlanta’s ninth straight win.
Means is 1-4 with 5.84 ERA in seven starts since returning from the injured list July 20, despite the quality start. The Orioles have won just three of Means’ past 12 starts.
“I think we’ve been pressing pretty hard, honestly,” Means said. “I think everybody has been trying to fix everything. I think we need to relax and play the game and have fun again, because it has not been a whole lot of fun lately, that’s for sure.”
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ losses have run the gamut. They’ve now allowed five or fewer runs in three straight games, after allowing six or more in each of their previous eight. They’ve lost 17 of 18 by multiple runs, and dropped 19 of 20 games in August. Their last win came on Aug. 2 against the Yankees in New York.
They are off Monday before welcoming Shohei Ohtani and the Angels for a three-game series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Tuesday.
“I have no problem with our effort,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I have no problem with how we prepare or our pregame. We’re just not winning games. We’re not executing and we’re very inexperienced. We got beat this series by good pitching. We didn’t swing the bat well this series, we didn’t pitch very well last series. It’s tough.”
New look at López
In a bright spot, the Orioles were pleased with their first look in the last calendar year at right-hander Jorge López in a relief role, a day after officially relegating López to the bullpen following a string of rough starts. Flashing his fastball as hard as 96.8 mph, López struck out a pair over a scoreless ninth inning in his first relief appearance since August 2020.
“I liked it a lot,” Hyde said. “I thought he looked confident, and the fastball had really good life to it. It had a lot of life to it and I liked the way he challenged hitters.”
The change in role could be mutually beneficial for the Orioles and López, who leads the Majors in losses (14) and ERA (6.30) among pitchers with at least 100 innings pitched, and is first-year arbitration-eligible this winter. As a starter, López was far more effective early in games, routinely watching starts snowball in the fifth inning, or when facing an opposing lineup for a third time. If his stuff continues to play up, he could help an Orioles ‘pen without defined roles and with the Majors’ highest ERA. López owns a 5.16 ERA in 37 career appearances as a reliever, but most of those came from 2018-19 with the Brewers and Royals.