Wind: 1.01 m/h
As I was leaving work Wednesday, I immediately checked my phone to see how the Orioles’ game was going.
I’d already received a notification that Trey Mancini hit a three-run nuke to push the O’s lead to 6-0, but I had no idea that something bigger was at play.
I looked at the box score and saw the “0 0 0” for the Seattle Mariners, which only meant one thing.
John Means was dealing.
At risk of getting pulled over by our friendly officers in blue, I drove home as fast as I could manage to make sure I didn’t miss it. I got home just in time to see the top of the ninth, and I think that’s the only time I’ve ever wished for the O’s to end their half of the inning as quickly as possible.
Means took the mound for the final time, just three outs from the first Orioles’ individual no-hitter since Jim Palmer in 1969, one of the coolest guys to ever wear black and orange. To put that into perspective, my dad, another lifelong Orioles fan, was four years old. The O’s last no-hitter, a combined effort in 1991, came three years before I was born.
Since Mike Mussina left for New York in 2001, the O’s pitching staff has mostly been a ticking time bomb. So as Means has emerged as a bonafide ace — the 2019 All-Star has a 1.37 ERA through 46 innings this season — I’ve struggled to contain my excitement. The Orioles finally have a legit No. 1 starter again.
Means was facing the bottom of the order — the only runner to reach was Seattle’s Sam Haggerty, who was immediately caught stealing. In short order, Means struck out Dylan Moore and Haggerty, leaving shortstop JP Crawford the Mariners’ last attempt at avoiding the no-no.
Crawford proceeded to smoke a line drive — right at Ramon Urias. And just like that, Means had thrown a no-hitter while facing the minimum.
I didn’t get crazy or belligerent. I just kind of sat there and smiled. Anyone who follows the Orioles knows not just how awesome it is that the O’s are finally getting some positive attention from the media looking to make jokes at our expense, but it’s even more important for Means himself.
Means was an 11th-round pick in 2014. When he arrived in 2018, there were almost zero expectations that Means would ever amount to anything. His stuff is good but not great and his velocity is average. Dozens and dozens of pitchers across baseball have better stuff.
But they don’t have Means’ heart. They haven’t battled the adversity that Means has. They haven’t clawed their way from obscurity to make a name for themselves, and most of them certainly haven’t had to go through all of this while losing their father to cancer like Means did in 2020.
So while I was happy for me on Wednesday, I was happier for Means. As far as I’m concerned, he’s one of the best stories in baseball.
He’s one of baseball’s best pitchers, too.