With Baltimore ace John Means pitching the sixth no-hitter in Orioles history and first individual one since 1969, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:
1. Wednesday marked exactly three years since Means lost his fourth straight game at Bowie as a 25-year-old on the bubble of the Orioles’ top 30 prospects list. At this time last year, he was throwing into a mattress trying to improve his velocity. A terrific underdog story of growth continues.
2. Putting aside the pressure and competition in any given game, Means may have turned in the best pitching performance in franchise history with 12 strikeouts and was a dropped third strike away from perfection. Even the legendary Jim Palmer walked six batters in his no-hitter against Oakland 52 years ago.
3. Before the ninth inning, Means glanced at his glove with his dad’s initials written on it. The 28-year-old lost his father to cancer last summer and said after the game, “I know my dad was there today. I know he was — back there telling me what pitch to throw.” Goosebumps.
4. Nearly as remarkable as the no-hitter itself was Means throwing a first-pitch strike to 26 of 27 hitters. His 26 swinging strikes were a personal high in the first complete game of his career. Seattle hit only one ball with an exit velocity of 95 mph or more. Dominant.
5. Yes, a perfect game would have been phenomenal, but let’s not act as though the dropped third strike rule is some new concoction like the runner placed at second base in extra innings. Means still made history with this type of no-hitter. This wasn’t exactly an Armando Galarraga situation.
6. My favorite part of the on-field celebration was seeing the elation on Trey Mancini’s face as the designated hitter — who clubbed a three-run homer in the eighth — sprinted from the dugout to the mound. Seeing him and this group get to celebrate in such a fashion was fun.
7. Despite being the class of baseball from 1966-83, the Orioles haven’t exactly given fans under 40 much to celebrate beyond Cal Ripken’s historic streak, Eddie Murray’s 500th home run, Delmon Young’s double, and a handful of playoff appearances. But a no-hitter is as special as it gets for single-game accomplishments.
8. I enjoy Ben McDonald’s commentary, but it’s a shame that Palmer wasn’t on the MASN telecast as Means accomplished something no other Oriole had since the legendary Hall of Famer himself. Means said, “To be in the same breath as Palmer, I don’t think it gets much better than that.”
9. It’s interesting to note that Brandon Hyde was an assistant coach for the Chicago Cubs when ex-Oriole Jake Arrieta pitched his two no-hitters. Hyde said his stomach began turning in the eighth inning as he worried about a variety of factors from Means’ pitch count to the defensive positioning.
10. Am I the only one who had all but forgotten about Daniel Cabrera being the last Oriole to take a no-hitter into the ninth inning when he flirted with history at old Yankee Stadium in late September of 2006? Robinson Cano spoiled the bid with a one-out single.
11. I fondly remember listening on the radio as Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson, and Gregg Olson combined to no-hit Oakland a few months shy of my eighth birthday in 1991. I always hoped Mike Mussina would throw one. Finally seeing an Orioles pitcher do it was really special.
12. “Work fast, change speeds, throw strikes.” Watching Means do exactly what Ray Miller preached for so many years was very fitting a day after the longtime Orioles pitching coach and former manager died at age 76. Miller certainly would have appreciated such brilliance on the hill.