The Orioles and Rangers found themselves in a pitchers' duel on Sunday afternoon at Globe Life Field. When it was over, it was the Orioles who came up on the short end of the score, losing 1-0 in 10 innings.
The good news was that Baltimore was able to win the series by taking two out of three games from Texas.
There was no score until the bottom of the 10th inning. The bases were loaded for Texas when Nate Lowe swung at a 1-1 pitch from right-hander Travis Lakins Sr. and singled to left field, scoring Eli White for the game-winner.
The Orioles had a chance to score the go-ahead run in the top of the inning. With Maikel Franco on third base, pinch-hitter Trey Mancini singled in front of right fielder Adolis García. Franco had a tough time getting a read on the ball, and was easily thrown out at the plate.
“[Franco] didn’t know if the ball was going to hang up or not, but he went back and tagged and [García] made a heck of a throw,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “Tip your hat to the Rangers for the defensive play they made during the top half of the inning.”
Although he didn’t figure in the decision, left-hander John Means was dealing for the duration of his outing, pitching seven shutout innings, allowing three hits and striking out nine hitters.
“Today was his day,” second baseman Ramón Urías said about Means. “All of his pitches were working really well for him. He was nasty with all of his pitches. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get a victory for him.”
It started as the smoke show for Means, who had five strikeouts in the first two innings. Whenever he was in trouble, Means relied heavily on his changeup, which he called his lifesaver.
Take the fifth inning: Means was in trouble, and the Rangers had runners on first and second with one out. But Means struck out Leody Taveras on the changeup and was able to get Isiah Kiner-Falefa to fly out to center fielder Cedric Mullins to end the threat.
“I just knew I just needed to make my pitches, just stay relaxed,” Means said. “If I executed, I was fine. The way the changeup was working today, all I needed to do was kind of run it off the edge of the plate and that’s what I did. I got a big strikeout [against Taveras] and I got a big third out.”
Means was a tough critic when evaluating his performance on Sunday. He believes his Opening Day start on April 2 against the Red Sox was better. In that game, he also pitched seven shutout innings, but allowed one hit.
“I thought I was stronger toward the end in Boston,” Means said. “[Against the Rangers], I started to lose a little bit of command toward the end. … I kept my pitch count up. If I kept attacking, I think I could have gone a little longer. But those were pretty good outings.”
Means' counterpart, right-hander Kyle Gibson, was just as effective, pitching eight shutout innings and striking out six batters. The Orioles had runners in scoring position against Gibson twice, but they couldn’t take advantage of the situation.
“[Gibson] clearly showed the reason why he's our number one pitcher,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “I probably could have sent him back out for the ninth. He was that good. … He pitched like our ace today. I felt like the responsible thing to do is you end his day right there. I know he wants to go for the shout out though."