A closer look at John Means' season debut

John Means made his season debut for the Orioles on Tuesday night. How did the lefty fare?
St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles
St. Louis Cardinals v Baltimore Orioles / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

"It looked like John Means". As Brandon Hyde said after the game, John Means looked the pitcher we normally saw before his exit in April of 2022 with left elbow tightness. A long recovery from Tommy John Surgery plus a setback that delayed his return, but he's finally back on a major league mound.

The lefty threw five innings (75 pitches - 55 strikes) in a 5-2 loss to St. Louis Cardinals. His numbers: 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 0 walks, a strikeout and two Home Runs allowed. In this piece, we'll show inning-by-inning about his first MLB appearance after Tommy John surgery.

Taking a closer look at John Means' first game back

First inning: A few pitches, but...

Means threw only 8 pitches (7 strikes) in first inning. Exactly two per Cardinals batter. First, a lineout to Austin Hays. Second, a groundout to Tommy Edman. Third, on a high fastball, Paul Goldschmidt hit a solo HR to batter's eye. For the final out, a popout in foul territory by Nolan Arenado to end the frame. All outs with an 80+ mph exit velocity.

Second inning: Bad luck

The second inning started with two bloop singles by Willson Contreras and Tyler O'Neill in five pitches. Nolan Gorman came to the plate and hit a groundball to Ryan O'Hearn. The first baseman didn't execute the double play and Gorman reached on a fielder's choice. With bases loaded and none out, Means needed some magic to control the damage.

A sac fly by Jordan Walker pulled St. Louis ahead, 2-0. Another flyball, this time from Masyn Winn, didn't advance the runners. A groundball by Lars Nootbaar ended the second with 25 pitches in that frame.

Third inning: The first 1-2-3

A 18-pitch frame to eliminate in order Edman (Flyout to RF), Goldschmidt (Lineout to SS) and Arenado (Pop out to SS). Only three fastballs were thrown by Means in the third. He mixed in all his breaking balls and it worked.

Fourth inning: NO WAY!

Contreras and O'Neill flew out to start the fourth. Unfortunately, Richie Palacios, who replaced Gorman in the second inning, hit a 0-2 curveball to the flag court. A 'NO WAY' scream by Means summed this moment. Walker was the final out in the fourth, but a 3-0 deficit is not ideal. A 14-pitch frame with the same plan: a lot of breaking balls and only few heaters.

Fifth inning: The first K

The offense didn't support Means after loading the bases in the bottom of the 4th and didn't score. For the fifth, Means eliminated the Cardinals in order on 11 pitches. Especially the second out, a strikeout looking by Nootbaar who saw a high changeup that caught the strike zone for his only K of the night.

The offense only scored two runs in bottom fifth against the veteran Adam Wainwright, but the bullpen didn't hold the deficit and the final score is 5-2 Cardinals.

The bottom line

Means was similar to his old form. His fastball velocity was down a little bit, but he attacked the strike zone, a lot like the old Means. His aggressive approach could be a factor for the two Home Runs allowed. After the no-hitter game, the lefty has allowed 27 Home Runs in 22 games. But the majority of the outs, even some hits, weren't classified as hard hits.

After the game, Means said: "I don't really believe in moral victories, to be honest with you. I wanted to get the win today". Tonight, things didn't click in general. But he's back and will help the Orioles in the final stretch and eventually on the playoffs. Welcome back, John Means. We missed you.