We saw history this afternoon for the Baltimore Orioles. John Means provided one of the greatest if not the greatest Opening Day performances in franchise history, against Boston at Fenway Park. Means surrendered a base hit on the first at-bat of the ballgame, had a runner reach on an error to start the second, and then proceeded to retire the following 18 hitters in a row. Means’ line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K.
I suppose that where this ranks in terms of all-time performances by an Orioles’ pitcher on Opening Day is in the eyes of the beholder. But it’s certainly the best in my lifetime that I’ve ever seen. Means of course lost his father during last season, and also witnessed the birth of his son this past off season. Needless to say, it was an emotional moment for him to take the mound today. But there can be little doubt that he had his number one fan behind him in the sky.
The only drawback to today’s game, at least at first, was that Boston’s Eovaldi seemed to match Means pitch-for-pitch. The Orioles did have a few balls trickle through for base hits, but Boston would always seem to squash the rally. But eventually the O’s got more traffic on the bases and chased Eovaldi.
The O’s had the bases loaded with one out in the top of the sixth. Ryan Mountcastle, making his first ever Opening Day start (as the DH), came to the plate, and sent a deep shot towards left. It bounced off the green monster, netting Mountcastle and the Orioles a two-RBI double. And that’s key; obviously you can’t win if you don’t score (no matter how good your pitching is). But you don’t want to waste a performance like what Means put on today – whether it’s Opening Day, the last game, or anywhere in between.
The O’s would get in insurance run in the eighth on an RBI-single by Anthony Santander. And that’s just as key of a thing as the aforementioned two-RBI single by Mountcastle. You always want insurance runs; you want as many runs as you can possibly get. But especially in a park like Fenway. As the ultimate hitter’s park, you can never be too careful.
So a day late, but the O’s start the season 1-0. However you never want to put too much emphasis into one game – especially Opening Day. But the story du jour is John Means. Heck, he might be the story du jour across the entire league. Needless to say, it’s a game Means will never forget. And given his personal circumstances, it probably will resonate just a bit louder than it otherwise would have.
But make no mistake it would have resonated loudly anyways. It was an absolute virtuoso performance on all fronts. And make no mistake that it goes down in franchise history as one of the best ever by an Opening Day starter.