NEW YORK -- The first half of this season was a dream for John Means, who came out of nowhere to emerge as Baltimore’s upstart ace and a surprise All-Star. The second half? Kind of a drag.
Means’ second-half struggles continued on Tuesday, when the rookie left-hander surrendered six runs over 3 2/3 innings in the Orioles’ 8-3 loss to the Yankees. It was the third consecutive abbreviated start for Means, who has watched his ERA mushroom nearly a full run over that stretch. After returning from the All-Star festivities in Cleveland with a 2.50 ERA over his first 18 big league appearances, Means has gone 1-4 with an 8.39 mark in five starts since.
“I didn’t have anything tonight,” Means said. “It sucked to not have anything against that lineup. It’s frustrating, but I’ll come back in five days and do better.”
Now two starts removed from missing two weeks with a left biceps strain, Means said it’s mechanical -- not health-related -- issues that have contributed to this recent stretch. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said it is “definitely noticeable” that Means’ stuff and command have not been the same.
“He was just off tonight,” Hyde said. “I think he feels fine. I just think he has a tough time commanding the ball right now. He’s just missing up in the zone way too much.”
Means' trouble began early on Tuesday, as he coughed up a leadoff homer to DJ LeMahieu on his first pitch of the night. New York largely cruised from there, using a barrage of extra-base hits to coast to its 15th straight win over Baltimore. The O's 15-game losing streak to the Yanks is their longest in a single season since dropping 17 straight to the Indians in 1954.
“After the first pitch, obviously going over the wall, there were several mechanical issues going on throughout the day,” Means said. “I recognized it but couldn’t fix it in time.”
Cameron Maybin hit a two-run single in the second, and Aaron Judge connected for a two-run double to chase Means in the fourth, before Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez added RBI hits against Miguel Castro. That supplied all the support Domingo German needed en route to his MLB-best 16th win, as the right-hander held the Orioles to solo homers by Anthony Santander and Stevie Wilkerson while striking out seven over seven innings.
Righty Chandler Shepherd tossed four innings of one-run relief for the O's in his MLB debut, and Renato Nunez added home run No. 26 off Yankees rookie Adonis Rosa in the ninth.
“This is where you learn,” Means said. “You learn from failure. You learn from not having success. I think I’m going to grow even more from this.”
All told, it was a quieter chapter in what’s been a season series defined by big flies and hard contact, now one game away from its conclusion. Means played a sizeable role, appearing in five games against New York this season and picking up a win in their third meeting on March 31. But he’s allowed 10 combined earned runs across two starts vs. the Yanks over the past six days.
“Last start I felt really, really good, and felt like I just made one bad pitch,” Means said. “This one was the opposite. I just grinded through every single inning. You’re going to have those, especially in your rookie year. You’re just going to have to figure it out.”