Orioles ace John Means was dominant in Opening Day win over Red Sox

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Ryan Wormeli
·3 min read
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Orioles ace John Means was dominant in Opening Day win originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Orioles had to wait an extra day to kick off their 2021 season after the Red Sox pushed back Opening Day as a result of poor weather Thursday. But it was well worth the wait for John Means after the Orioles ace utterly dominated Boston's lineup for a 3-0 win in the first game of the year.

Means allowed a base hit to the very first batter he saw, but he then proceeded to go seven straight innings without allowing another hit or issuing a walk (there was another Boston baserunner thanks to a fielding error).

It was an exciting, emphatic performance from a pitcher who is just two years removed from being the 25th man on the roster out of spring training. It's been an inspiring journey for Means to establish himself as a quality big league pitcher thanks to his improved control and truly elite changeup.

Means' velocity was actually down from 2020, back to the 92 mph range he was in for most of 2019. It didn't hurt his effectiveness in what turned out to be a historic performance.

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As noted by Stathead, this was the first Opening Day start in 115 years in which a pitcher tossed at least seven innings with five strikeouts, no walks and one or fewer hits. The last pitcher to do so? Irv Young of the Boston Beaneaters in 1906 against the Brooklyn Superbas.

Yeah, it had been a while. And even if you remove the five strikeout qualifier, the only other pitcher besides Means and Young to have that stat line on Opening Day was Jordan Zimmermann in 2019. Remove the zero walks qualifier and he's still just the 17th pitcher in MLB history with seven innings and one or fewer hits allowed on Opening Day, and the first in O's history.

Means retired the last 18 batters he faced and was still a few pitches shy of 100 on the afternoon. If this wasn't Opening Day, he likely would have had an even longer leash and might have even gone the distance.

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This isn't an entirely new Means, however. Dating back to last season, this was his fifth consecutive start with just one run or fewer allowed, which is tied for the second-longest streak in franchise history behind only Hall of Famer Jim Palmer in 1978.

It's only one game, but this was as promising a start as the Orioles could possibly have hoped for. Rio Ruiz was another star of the the game with his unexpectedly terrific defense in his first career start at second base, Rookie of the Year contender Ryan Mountcastle hit a bases-loaded double, and Trey Mancini's return from battling colon cancer was the biggest story of the day.

But it's Means who made history Friday afternoon. And if he can string together a few more performances like this one, he'll start to look even more deserving of the mantle of "ace" in Baltimore.