With No-Hitter, John Means Opens Up a World of Prospects

Throwing a no-hitter, you might say, is like lassoing the moon. You may see the distant glow, beckoning and teasing suddenly. Can you actually get there? In all probability not. However you’ll be able to dream.

On Aug. 13, 1969, in Oakland, Jim Palmer made the enormous leap for the Baltimore Orioles with 9 no-hit innings in opposition to the Athletics. It was the identical day that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins glided up Broadway and down Michigan Avenue for ticker-tape parades in New York and Chicago, adopted by a state dinner with President Richard M. Nixon in Los Angeles.

Palmer, now 75, has by no means been to the moon, in fact. However the no-hitter broadened his universe in a method no different Oriole had skilled till Wednesday, when John Means turned the primary Baltimore pitcher since Palmer to toss a complete-game no-hitter. Means subdued the Mariners, 6-0, with 12 strikeouts and no walks in Seattle.

4 Orioles mixed for a no-hitter in 1991, however going the gap set Means’s feat aside. It was his forty fourth profession begin and the primary to stretch previous the seventh inning. His work days won’t ever be the identical.

“Pitching a no-hitter — and pitching a no-hitter with a full sport now, as a result of they’re so uncommon — is form of like a gap in a single,” Palmer stated by telephone on Wednesday evening. “It’s humorous, while you’re golfer, you take a look at a par-3, you need to get on the inexperienced, you need to make a birdie. And you then make a gap in a single, and for the remainder of your life, each time you tee a ball up on a par-3, you don’t take into consideration birdies — you consider the opportunity of ‘You recognize what? I may have a gap in a single.’

“So for the modern-day pitcher, in the event you’re John Means, you’ve by no means pitched a whole sport. You’ve by no means pitched a no-hitter or a one-hitter or a two-hitter or a three-hitter, since you’ve by no means pitched 9 innings. So now, each time he takes the ball, he’s effectively conscious — as a result of he’s executed it — that he may pitch a no-hitter, he may pitch a whole sport. There’s a litany of issues now, impulsively, that come into play.”

Palmer’s path led to a few Cy Younger Awards, a spot within the Corridor of Fame and a protracted profession as an Orioles broadcaster. He was not working Wednesday’s sport, however he has carefully adopted Means’s rise from an Eleventh-round draft selection in 2014 to an unlikely spot on the opening day roster 5 years later.

“I sat with him at his locker in 2019 and he stated, ‘You recognize, I wasn’t one of many actual extremely touted prospects, so I may form of at all times fly below the radar,’” Palmer stated. “Till he made the membership — and it began that first weekend. He pitched three or 4 innings in aid up in Yankee Stadium, in opposition to their A lineup, they usually didn’t have an opportunity. I believe he threw a dangling changeup and Gary Sanchez hit a solo house run. That was it.”

Means, 28, has not hung many changeups since. He made the All-Star Sport that summer season and was the runner-up for the American League Rookie of the 12 months Award, going 12-11 with a 3.60 earned run common. This season he’s 4-0 with a 1.37 E.R.A.

Final season, although, was wrenching: Means misplaced his father, Alan, to pancreatic most cancers in August. On Wednesday, as he ready to safe the no-hitter, Means considered his dad.

“I appeared in my glove proper earlier than I went on the market for the ninth, it had his initials on it, and I stated to myself, ‘He wouldn’t care, he’s simply glad that I’m having time,’” Means stated. “The accolades and all the things like that by no means mattered to him.”

Even so, Means stated, it took him a second to compose himself in opposition to Dylan Moore, the leadoff hitter within the ninth.

“I obtained a bit of little bit of the Jell-O legs, began to really feel a bit of wobbly,” he stated. “However as soon as I threw that first pitch, I used to be capable of lock in once more.”

Moore popped out to the third baseman in foul territory. Then Sam Haggerty struck out on a changeup, the weapon Means realized from the pitching coach Chris Holt at spring coaching in 2019, the separator that vaulted him to the majors for good.

Means threw yet another pitch, his 113th, and J.P. Crawford punched it softly on a line to shortstop Ramon Urias, ending the sport. Means had confronted the minimal 27 hitters and thrown 26 first-pitch strikes. The one batter who reached base was Haggerty within the third inning, on a third-strike breaking ball that skipped previous catcher Pedro Severino. Haggerty made it to first with no throw, however was then caught stealing.

It was the third nine-inning no-hitter of the 2021 season — after ones by the San Diego Padres’ Joe Musgrove and the Chicago White Sox’ Carlos Rodon in April — however Means’s efficiency was distinctive in trendy baseball historical past: By no means earlier than had a pitcher confronted solely 27 batters in a nine-inning no-hitter, with the one runner reaching base on a strikeout/wild pitch.

Solely twice earlier than had a pitcher didn’t throw an ideal sport regardless of dealing with the minimal 27 batters, whereas permitting no hits or walks. It occurred in 1960 to the Milwaukee Braves’ Lew Burdette, who hit a batter, and in 1990 to the Philadelphia Phillies’ Terry Mulholland, who allowed a batter to achieve base on an error. Each runners had been erased on double performs.

Severino stated he felt “very unhealthy” about letting the ball get by him, although he recovered by pegging Haggerty at second, very similar to the Phillies’ third baseman in 1990, Charlie Hayes, who made up for his error by lunging to spear a liner and seal Mulholland’s no-hitter.

In any case, Means was hardly disenchanted to overlook an ideal sport, which no pitcher has achieved since Felix Hernandez of the Mariners in August 2012. Means stated he had at all times wished to throw a no-hitter however by no means thought he may even attain the majors. As a boy, he stated, he would write “M.L.B. participant” when requested at school for his life objectives, however he thought it sounded unrealistic.

“I used to be by no means that child who had a ton of confidence in myself,” Means stated.

Then he realized the changeup and started to ascertain himself. On Wednesday he explored the outer limits of his expertise, launching himself to a land no Orioles pitcher had visited for the reason that biggest of all of them, greater than half a century in the past.

“It’s been such a whirlwind of an expertise, and I don’t suppose I’ve been capable of course of it but,” Means stated. “However to be in the identical breath as Palmer, I don’t suppose it will get significantly better than that.”

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