What It All (John) Means For The Seattle Mariners

Cinco De Mayo, in baseball history, is a prime pitching anniversary. On May 5, 1904, Cy Young threw the first Perfect Game ever. 

Fast forward to May 5, 2021, and a Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher who’d never pitched beyond the 7th inning, John Means, featuring a fastball with late life, that tops at 95 MPH, who also entered the game May 5, 2021, with the American League’s 3rd best ERA 1.70; earned his own gem, and his own place in baseball and Baltimore Oriole history, on the strength of a sterling no-hitter after 9 innings against the Seattle Mariners. Means bested M’s starter, Yusei Kikuchi, who took a no-hitter through 6 2/3 innings against the Astros in his last start in Houston.

Kikuchi was mostly strong on the mound for Seattle, Wednesday afternoon, allowing only 3 ER runs over 7 IP and picking up 7 K. 

But Baltimore’s John Means was much, much, more emphatically better at T-Mobile Park during the afternoon rubber match of a 3 game set, and the second and final series finale between both teams this year.

Striking out Ty France in the bottom of the seventh, who has now, after a torrid batting start to Spring Training and the first 20 games of the regular season, gone 0 for his last 22, Means tied a season-best, 9 K.

Over the course of 7 innings, Means lowered his ERA to tie the second-best mark in the AL, held by Gerrit Cole, 1.43. Kansas City Royals starter, Danny Duffy remains atop the AL with a 0.60 through 5 starts. Means surpassed Cole by the end, to earn the third no-hitter in baseball this year. And with sole possession of the second-best AL ERA at 1.37, Means has swiftly become a dark horse AL Cy Young Award candidate.

After Baltimore tagged Seattle’s last of the last available in relief pitchers, Aaron Fletcher, for 3 more runs of insurance in the top of the 8th, Means dropped his pitching arm out of his black and orange team jacket, grabbed his glove, and walked to the mound. The longest start of his career, the O’s Ace, from Kansas, had already thrown 85 pitches and 61 of them for strikes. First man up, CF, Kyle Lewis slugged the fourth pitch of his 8th inning AB all the way to the left field warning track but it was caught with room to spare. C, Tom Murphy struck out swinging, and Means had a new season best 10 K. And then Evan White, also meandering with an abysmal .141 batting average, struck out next. 11 K.

11 K. 101 pitches. 71 for strikes. ERA dropping to 1.40. And Means walking back to the dugout. Not one Oriole saying word one to the Ace.

Top of the 9th – with the entirety of Seattle Mariners Twitter retweeting about the game’s action, or lack thereof, and with the words, “no-hitter,” or some such combination of words, just some “no-hitter” confabulation and no respect, just some, any way to Tweet and say something with words, “no-hitter,” mixed in to attempt a very late no-hitter jinxing of one kind or another; while Root Sports’ Dave Simms repeats the words, “John Means has a no-hitter through…” every other sentence; and all of it perhaps a passive attempt of the same late offense alchemy – Means takes the field.  Stoic, climbing the concrete steps of the visitor dugout. 

Simms winding up, sounding elated, or maybe now not so menacing, and ill-wishing, after all, Dylan Moore stepping into the batters’ box. Simms saying, “He’s got a chance for a piece of history coming up!” 

The man of the moment, Means, entered high school at 5’4” before a growth spurt pushed him up to 6’3” and he pitched at West Virginia. Today he’s 6’3” and 235 pounds. The same physique as Justin Verlander. 

Bottom of the 9th. Bottom third of the Seattle lineup. Means with 101 pitches, 11 K, and first-pitch strikes thrown to 23 of 24 batters faced. Dylan Moore quickly down 2 strikes. Then Moore pops out to Ruiz at 3B. A brisk 1-1 count to speed demon, Sam Haggerty, the man responsible for spoiling the perfect game on a passed ball dropped strike 3. Means at 111 pitches, a new career-high, he Strikes out Haggerty, with a circle change off the outside corner. Ties his career-best, 12 K. 

On the very next pitch, J.P. Crawford lines out to short. And that’s it. History. One baserunner all day, Sam Haggerty, who was thrown out at second, caught stealing 2B for the first time in his career after going 9 for 9, and after, for all intents and purposes, stealing first. 

The first individual no-hitter in Baltimore Orioles franchise history since 1969.

Over 113 pitches, Means threw first-pitch strikes to 26 of 27 M’s hitters.

Sensational. Sterling. Immaculate.

Sometimes I wonder what the hell Seattle Mariners fans, or Tweeters, or maybe it’s just a reflection of me and my taste and my algorithm, are thinking? Or how they can forget what this Seattle Mariners team was the last two decades. And how at the beginning of the year, due to his own malicious showboating, the M’s fanbase was able to peer pressure the organization to cut out the cancer that was Kevin Mather. All of Seattle Mariners Twitter is in what amounts to a constant uproar, lately. No one can blame them. But I’m bewildered that most, if not everyone partaking in this empurpled and black electronic overcast doom and gloom echo chamber can’t grasp the idea that a cancer survivor will not run a marathon the first time they step back into their running shoes. 

Again, no one deserves blame, but during Tuesday night’s game, even the sage, ordinarily impartial, or at least level, Seattle Times’ Mariners beat reporter, Ryan Divish, plus one of the Seattle Times’ sports columnists, Larry Stone, howled at the dreadful Seattle Mariners offense of late. 

And again, I don’t blame them. Even if their woebegone, howling fantods were ultimately a hallmark example of a darkly comedic sourpuss silenced because they were ironically premature and in the end pointless wastes of a Tweet; twice. After the fussy Tweet storming, the Root Sports broadcast resumed. The dark clouds parted. And…

Dazzling and crystalline all-new sunset dappled video footage featuring one of several T-Mobile Park upper deck Covid19 vaccine stations rolled before Kyle Seager, with a wheat-colored barrel of his pine-tarred bat in his left teal and white batting glove and the end of the bat right in front of his lips, so no one could read them, was shown whispering to Ty France in the Seattle Mariners on-deck circle while the Baltimore Orioles infield and pitching coach clustered around the mound after Travis Lankins Sr. allowed the first two Seattle hitters on base in the bottom of the eighth inning at T-Mobile Park, Tuesday evening.

Though not explicitly clear what Seager said to France, one could imagine Kyle Seager thought it wise to say what many in Mariners Nation must have collectively thought, about France, What a time for a great young powerful hitter to snap a slump. France was 0 for 20 before he worked the count to 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning then took two strikes. 3-2 count, and France took for ball 4. Bases loaded. No outs.

Kyle Seager supplied the only Seattle Mariners offense, in the bottom of the fourth, up to that point, on a solo HR to RF (5), with an exit velocity of 111 MPH, that not so much took flight, but lazered all 383 Feet.

Seager’s HR moved the veteran Mariner to within 1 HR of the most HR all time by a Mariner at T-mobile Park/Safeco Field. After Tuesday, he sits just one HR behind both Nelson Cruz and Raul Ibanez. The M’s also now have a total of 35 team HRs, 7th in the AL, overtaking Boston. 

Bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth, Seager was clutch for Seattle yet again, smacking a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Sam Haggerty, the go-ahead run from 3B.

The M’s were not done, however. With two men on for Kyle Lewis, he smashed a 103.7 MPH, 380 ft 3R HR to RF. And as three Mariners rounded third and crossed home, Dave Simms paid homage to the late DMX, by shouting, “Y’all gonna make me lose my mind/Up in here!”

Kyle Lewis is now tied with, “Mr. Mariner,” legend, Alvin Davis for the fastest number of games before hitting career HR, 20, in his 88th game as a Mariner.

Seattle INF, but currently injured, Shed Long Jr. Tweeted moments after the Lewis blast, “I think I’m naming my son Kyle.”

Seattle’s pitching staff held Baltimore’s and the MLB’s Hits leader (38) Cedric Mullins to a rare 0 for 4 night as well.

The O’s loaded the bases in the 2nd, 6th and 8th inning, before scoring a total of 0 to strand a combined total 10 baserunners the entire night. Kendall Gravemen, Rafael Montero made scoreless relief appearances after starter, Justin Dunn allowed only 1 ER through 5 2/3. Kenyan Middleton walked Tray Mancini. Then Baltimore OF, Austin Hays, earned his second career, “Golden Sombrero” (striking out 4 times in one game) when M’s reliever Robert Dugger – who replaced Middleton after an apparent arm injury – struck him out on a pitch in the dirt in the 9th. Dugger allowed a run before earning his first save of the year.

Dunn’s fastball was very wild early. He threw 45 pitches to survive the first 2 innings scoreless. Then he switched to curveballs primarily, a pitch he could throw for a strike. At one point during the game, Justin Dunn retired a season best, 9, consecutive Baltimore batters.

After Dugger’s final strike three curveball, Roots Sports commentator, and former Mariners, C, Dan Wilson, said, “Nice team win for the Mariners.”

Maybe Seattle Mariners fans and writers are beset with the myopia that comes from enduring and languishing after a year plus of lockdown, isolation, and all while many of us are not able to watch the M’s play in person. But with every MLB team now accumulating 12 losses, a new low, or depending on how one observes the statistic, a new competitive benchmark has been confirmed: no team will finish their first 30 games with a record better than 18-12, or with a winning percentage better than .600. It’s the first time in MLB history this has occurred. 

The M’s are 17-15. They are second in the AL West behind the team with the best record in baseball, as of this writing, Oakland Athletics, at an astonishing 19-12.

A valuable note, as well – before a final umbrella defense for torrential acid rain naysaying rebuff is completed here: the Mariners strength of schedule was 2nd in all of baseball – behind the Rockies, who are now, 11-19 and dead last in the NL West – through their first 20 games. It’s no surprise young hitters struggled early against the best of the best. They’ll bounce back. The first time Seattle faced John Means, the M’s rocked Means and got to him early; Means lasted only 5 IP and gave up 3 ER, including but not limited to solo HRs to Ty France and Tom Murphy. 

Yes, the John Means no-hitter was excruciating, especially if one was not a starting pitcher for extended amounts of time during one’s life. (Me, for instance.) But I swear to the Baseball Gods, man, I’m sick of the sour rhetoric on Mariners Twitter. Most of them have not the first clue what they’re talking about when it comes to young player development, and they don’t want to ask why the offensive numbers are so low. They only know that they’re atrocious for the moment. What’s worse – and why I crave some vicarious illumination, or at least some enhanced perspectives before the motor mouthing cavorts and self congratulates itself for another year after two decades worth of naysaying in among Mariners Twitter – it’s almost like not one of these Mariners fans, allegedly, remembers that like many, countless, thousands of great hitters that have played the game… It is wise to have a short memory. Dude, duh. The M’s play their first 3 games against division rival, Texas Rangers in Arlington before traveling west for two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. And if anyone remembers what Kyle Seager does in Arlington, maybe they can self-soothe before they Tweet venom again.

Big Ups to John Means, for sure. But not one of us, “True to The Blue,” should forget about that Kyle Lewis rocket to right-center Tuesday night.

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About Jackson Pappin 50 Articles
Jackson Pappin is a freelance writer. A 2018 WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alumni, he writes fiction, journalism, columns, essays and poetry. His work has been published in Anastamos, The Oregonian, The Spokesman Review, The Seattle P.I. Reader Blogs, The Daily Evergreen, The Central Circuit, LandEscapes and at the Spectra Art Gallery. His writing is available at https://jacksonpappin.blogspot.com