John Means throws first career no-hitter; O’s shut out M’s 6-0

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE — The clubhouse celebration that awaited John Means was more than 50 years in the making for the Baltimore Orioles and more like a playoff berth being clinched rather than a Wednesday win in May.

Only a wild pitch in the dirt kept the Orioles from celebrating perfection. That’s how dominant Means was in throwing the major leagues’ third no-hitter of the season in Baltimore’s 6-0 win over the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday.

A franchise still in the midst of a rebuild with little to celebrate in recent seasons was happy to put the spotlight on its tall lefty who overmatched the Mariners with an array of unhittable fastballs, breaking pitches and a terrific changeup.

No, it wasn’t perfection. But it was about as close as it comes.

“I never really thought I’d be here. I’d always write MLB player when I was a kid on the sheet when asked what you wanted to do when you’re older, but I never thought it was a reality,” Means said. “And now that it is, and now I’m able to throw this, it’s crazy and I don’t even know how to describe it.”

This wasn’t a fluke performance – Means has been one of the best pitchers in the American League to start this season. This was domination.

Means (4-0) struck out 12 and walked none. Seattle’s only baserunner was Sam Haggerty after he raced to first after swinging at a curveball in the dirt for strike three with one out in the third inning. The 1-2 pitch bounced away from catcher Pedro Severino and ended up being the only blemish that separated Means from a perfect game.

Haggerty wasn’t on base long, getting thrown out attempting to steal second.

It was Means’ first complete game in 44 career big league starts, and he said he couldn’t care less that it wasn’t a perfect game.

Means pitched the first non-perfect no-hitter in which the opposing team did not reached on a walk, hit by pitch or error, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Means threw 79 strikes among 113 pitches, including first-pitch strikes to 26 of 27 batters. When Seattle did make contact against the 28-year-old left-hander, it was weak and there were no threats to fall in for a hit.

Means lowered his ERA to 1.37 and became the first individual Orioles pitcher to toss a no-hitter since Jim Palmer against Oakland on Aug. 13, 1969. It was the 10th no-hitter in franchise history, including six as Baltimore after four as the St. Louis Browns.

“It’s such a crazy feeling. It’s such a whirlwind of an experience. I don’t think I’ve been able to process it yet,” Means said. “But to be in the same breath as Palmer, I don’t think that it gets much better than that.”

In a season in which batters are on track to hit a record-low .234, Means joined a no-hit club that includes San Diego right-hander Joe Musgrove at Texas on April 9 and Chicago White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon against Cleveland on April 14.

In addition, Arizona left-hander Madison Bumgarner pitched a seven-inning no-hitter against Atlanta on April 25, but that is not recognized as an official no-hitter by Major League Baseball because the game did not go at least nine innings, shortened under pandemic rules in effect for a second straight season.

It’s the first time since 1969 there have been three complete game no-hitters this early in the season.

“Really can’t put into words what the last three outs, seeing how the teammates embraced him,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “Our clubhouse after the game, it was like we clinched a playoff spot.”

The closest Seattle came to a hit through six innings was J.P. Crawford‘s short fly ball in the sixth that center fielder Cedric Mullins caught with a slide. Kyle Lewis provided a threat with a drive leading off the eighth that Austin Hays caught on the left-field warning track.

Means got a popout from Dylan Moore, struck out Haggerty swinging and induced a soft liner from Crawford to end it, setting off a wild celebration with his teammates on the mound and a standing ovation from the crowd.

“He was good. He was really good,” Seattle’s Kyle Seager said. “He was in control. I don’t think we had hardly any balls that were close to being hits.”

Baltimore’s previous no-hitter came on July 13, 1991, when Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson combined for a 2-0 victory at Oakland.

Means had never pitched beyond seven innings in a big league start.

“When I started the (ninth) I got a little bit of the Jell-O legs, just a little bit, started to kind of feel a little wobbly,” Means said. “But once I did get that first pitch I was able to lock in again.”

D.J. Stewart and Ramon Urias had third-inning RBI singles against Yusei Kikuchi. Pat Valaika hit a solo homer off Kikuchi (1-2) in the sixth, and Trey Mancini connected for a three-run shot against Aaron Fletcher in the eighth. It was Mancini’s sixth homer in a season that marked his return from colon cancer surgery.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Mariners: RHP Keynan Middleton was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a biceps strain but the initial belief is it will be a short stint on the IL. Middleton left his relief appearance in the ninth inning on Tuesday night after just four pitches. Manager Scott Servais said it appears not to be a significant injury and Middleton should be back after the 10 days.

UP NEXT

Orioles: Opens a four-game series at home against Boston on Friday. RHP Matt Harvey (3-1, 4.06 ERA) starts the opener.

Mariners: Starts a five-game trip on Friday at Texas but has not announced a starter.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.