No-hitter will give John Means the attention he deserves

Orioles LHP John Means has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last few seasons. With his no-hitter on Wednesday, the rest of the league will start noticing

The ball hung in the air for what must have felt like an eternity, on a hard-line before winding up in the glove of shortstop Ramon Urias, and suddenly John Means, who didn’t play his first full season in the big leagues until the age of 26, had joined baseball’s most exclusive club for pitchers.

Means threw the 10th no-hitter in Baltimore Orioles franchise history, and first complete-game no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969, on Wednesday afternoon against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. He was masterful, striking out 12 without a walk, the only baserunner reaching in the third inning on a dropped third strike to Sam Haggerty.

The overmatched Mariners, baffled by the inside fastballs and outside changeups Means consistently tossed at them, had few opportunities. Kyle Lewis hit a line drive right at third baseman Maikel Franco in the second inning. In the fifth, Tom Murphy lined out to Urias at short. And in the sixth, when J.P. Crawford lobbed a soft fly ball into center, Cedric Mullins had to make a diving catch to keep the no-hitter alive.

Means breezed through the Mariners lineup. He threw a first-pitch strike to all but one batter. In the ninth inning, after getting Dylan Moore to foul out, he struck out Haggerty again; this time, catcher Pedro Severino held onto the ball. With two outs, Crawford lined the first pitch, a slider, on a trajectory to left-field but Urias’ glove got in the way.

Orioles: John Means receiving national recognition

“I can’t put it into words right now. It’s unbelievable,” Means told MASN after the performance. “Felt okay all game. Didn’t really have the changeup until the end. I’m glad I got it going.”

Means was a bit of a late bloomer. He only joined the Orioles rotation in 2019, making the All-Star roster in his rookie season. Turning 28 less than two weeks ago, he has yet to throw 250 innings in his career. Of the three other pitchers to throw no-hitters (including Madison Bumgarner’s seven-inning gem) in this still-young 2021 season, Carlos Rodon had thrown 536 innings by that age, Joe Musgrove 496, and Bumgarner more than 1,500.

He won’t become a free agent until he’s well into his 30s, but that’s just fine with the Orioles. Means is quickly turning into the game’s best-kept secret, a dominant left-hander for the lowly and perennially rebuilding Orioles. Going back to his last four starts from last season, Means has a 1.42 ERA, second-lowest in the Majors behind Gerrit Cole. He’s ahead of Jacob deGrom, ahead of Trevor Bauer, ahead of Shane Bieber. All those pitchers are consistently mentioned in the conservation for best young arms in the league. But not Means. That will change after his no-hitter.

On Opening Day in Fenway Park, Means held the Red Sox to only one hit in seven shutout innings. Only five pitchers in the Live Ball Era ever had two starts in a season of seven-plus shutout innings, one or fewer hits, and no walks. Means is now the sixth. He’s given up no more than one earned run in nine of his last 11 starts. He’s gone at least six innings while giving up no more than one hit in three of his last eight starts dating back to last September.

He won’t be a secret much longer. Orioles fans have long known about Means’ potential. By becoming the newest member of the no-hitter club, the rest of baseball is catching up pretty quickly.

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