John Means is pitching with a heavy heart.
The rookie let-hander was placed on the family medical emergency list Aug. 25 to be with his father, Alan, who was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Means returned to the team five days later and pitched a stellar seven innings at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, where the Gardner, Kan., native watched games as a kid. Means was focused and picked up his second straight win after allowing two runs and five hits with four strikeouts.
Means, 26, was equally impressive Sept. 5 against the Texas Rangers. But this time, he took the hard-luck loss despite giving up just two runs and two hits with four strikeouts during 6.2 innings in a 3-1 setback.
Means admitted it's been a challenge separating his personal life from baseball.
"It's tough. I have a different perspective on this game because of everything that's going on," he said. "I try not to let this sport affect me a whole lot. I go out there pretty loose because there's a lot more things that are a lot more important."
Means had retired 10 consecutive Rangers batters before Willie Calhoun led off the seventh with a single. Rookie Nick Solak followed with a 404-foot homer to right field off a 82.5 mile-per-hour changeup. The Orioles did not give Means much support and went 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
"I didn't think he was especially sharp in the first, but he really settled down and had a really good changeup going," Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. "He was just cruising into the seventh inning. He was throwing the ball well and left a changeup out over for the two-run homer.
"But that really wasn't the story. He did a great job, but we just didn't hit with runners in scoring position. We didn't do a very good job with a situational hit tonight. We had our opportunities. He definitely deserved better, but we just didn't get it done offensively."
Means was 7-4 with a 2.50 ERA with 64 strikeouts, 22 walks and a 1.097 WHIP at the midpoint of the season and was the Orioles' lone All-Star. He has since dealt with some injuries and inconsistency, losing six of seven decisions after the All-Star break, but appears to have corrected some of those issues.
Means is 10-10, the most wins among American League rookies, with a 3.50 ERA. His 103 strikeouts rank fourth among AL rookies, and he is third for innings pitched (131). Means will certainly be in the running for the AL Rookie of the Year Award, according to several writers who have votes.
The goal now is to continue to pitch well through the final weeks of the season, and cement his spot at the top of the rotation next season.
"Just consistency, you know? Going out and finishing strong," Means said of his goals moving forward. "Compared to the innings I've thrown in the minors, I'm not quite to that level yet. I finished with 160 innings last year. I think I'm about 130 now, so it's one of those things I want to get my innings up, I want to go out there and go seven innings every time and finish strong."
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