A funny yet unnerving and familiar feeling washed over Orioles manager Brandon Hyde as Tyler Wells pitched deeper and deeper into his start Monday in Seattle. Wells was through four perfect innings, a modest accomplishment, but doing so effortlessly -- setting down Mariners with weak contact for quick innings, harkening back to memories of a year ago.
By the time Seattle catcher Cal Raleigh homered off Wells with two outs in the fifth, an equal parts disappointed yet relieved feeling followed. Wells was on a more stringent pitch count after throwing a career-high 95 pitches his prior outing. More serious venturing down the perfect-game path would have forced tough questions to be asked in the visiting dugout.
“It was a little gut-wrenching in here,” Hyde laughed this week. “I mean, in a great way.”
Wells, a victor in four consecutive starts anyway, later returned to his locker and discovered a text from John Means. Means told Wells that he thought he was going to do it, that he was going to force his way to a no-hitter -- or at the time, a perfect game -- on around 90 pitches. Wells didn’t, but he gained an even greater appreciation for what he witnessed Means accomplish last season: Baltimore’s first solo no-hitter, also in Seattle, since Jim Palmer in 1969.
Nevertheless, the two O’s starters combined for something historic. According to STATS, the 43 consecutive batters Wells and Means retired at T-Mobile Park without allowing a hit, walk or hit by pitch before Raleigh's home run stands as the longest streak by any MLB team at any ballpark in the last 40 years.
“It gave me that much more respect for what he did,” Wells said this week.
Wells had visions of the day run through in his mind when he was searching for coffee in downtown Seattle before his start. The no-hitter was the talk of the O’s bus ride en route to the ballpark, euphoric memories rewinding upon entering the clubhouse left last in celebration.
“It was one of the first things we talked about when we came back,” Cedric Mullins said this week.
“Incredible day. We were talking on the way here -- last time we were here, it was a pretty cool moment,” Hyde said. “That's up there. I mean, no-hitters don't come around all the time. Someone like John Means that worked so hard to get there -- and a great story. Just a really, really special day. Fun to watch our guys. I remember the celebration after and how pumped the guys were for him.”
It’s the individual moments that stick out: The racing catches from Mullins and Austin Hays that Means swore were going to land. The happiest of cross-country flights back to Baltimore amid a trying season. And the image of Ramón Urías clamping down the final out, a lineout to short, that’s forever intertwined with history.
“Kind of crazy,” Urías laughed. “Going to be there forever.”
“It was one of those things that you kind of just never forget,” said Wells, who was stationed in the bullpen at the time. “You never forget the look on John's face.”
But Baltimore will continue to chug along without him (and Rodriguez, for that matter), eager for his return because of what he’s already achieved and what he’s instilled in those alongside him.
“I think the world of John,” Wells said. “That's an unbelievable accomplishment and proud moment for him in his life. But it's a pretty special moment for me, as well, to be a part of.”