Orioles left-hander John Means was already having an incredible season. Then, on Wednesday, he added a no-hitter to his All-Star and potentially even Cy Young resume. The lefty pulled off the feat with 12 strikeouts and zero walks against the Mariners. Means' no-hitter was the third of the young 2021 MLB season, the first for the Orioles in three decades and was very nearly the first MLB perfect game since 2012.
Here are three overarching themes to know from Means' big day.
1. One small blemish from perfection
Means' no-hitter was almost a perfect game, but a technicality prevented that. In the third inning, Means struck out Mariners left fielder Sam Haggerty, but the ball got away for a wild pitch and Haggerty reached first base. Haggerty was then caught stealing. So Means didn't allow a hit, a walk, a hit batsman and no runner reached on an error while he also faced the minimum on Wednesday. But it was not a perfect game. Tough one, huh?
Here's a look at the drop third strike that got through the legs of catcher Pedro Severino:
This is the first time in MLB history that a pitcher was prevented a perfect game from the dropped-third-strike rule. Means faced the minimum and technically got every single batter he faced out. Twenty-seven up, twenty-seven down is usually a perfect game. This time out, it was not. We truly witnessed a unicorn of a historical outing on Wednesday.
MLB is still looking for its first perfect game since August 2012 when Felix Hernandez threw one in the same ballpark as Means' Wednesday no-hitter. This is the longest stretch between perfect games since 1968 (Catfish Hunter) and 1981 (Len Barker).
Means was definitely dominant enough to be perfect. There was only really one scare, when Kyle Lewis flew out to the warning track to lead off the eighth. Per Statcast, he only allowed one "hard hit" ball all game, and that came on a pop up. There was no hard contact really threatening to become a hit. It was every bit as dominant as the box score made it look.
2. Long time coming for O's
Means threw the 10th no-hitter in Orioles history. His was the first Orioles no-hitter since four pitchers (Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson) pulled it off on July 13, 1991. This was the first no-hitter from an individual pitcher for the franchise since Hall of Famer Jim Palmer did it on Aug. 13, 1969.
The franchise history was not lost on Means after the game:
John Means: "To be in the same breath as Palmer, I don’t think it gets much better than that.”— Nathan Ruiz (@NathanSRuiz) May 5, 2021
Means had previously never gone deeper into a game than seven innings. Eight times in his career he threw exactly seven innings, but that was his career high.
Means' no-hitter was the third in MLB this season in just five weeks. Joe Musgrove of the Padres and Carlos Rodòn of the White Sox threw no-nos in April. Madison Bumgarner of the Diamondbacks also threw a seven-inning no-hitter vs. the Braves in a doubleheader, though that does not count as an official no-hitter.
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As a whole, major league hitters were batting .234 entering Wednesday's action. With the strikeout rates continuing to explode and MLB attempting to "deaden" the baseballs a bit, we almost surely aren't done for the year seeing no-hitters.
The question is whether or not we'll finally see another perfect game.
3. Means hasn't been nice to hitters
Means, 28, was an All-Star in 2019, but had a bit of a down year in 2020. He's been outstanding thus far in 2021, though. Prior to Wednesday, Means was 3-0 with a 1.70 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 37 innings. Even before this bit of history, he was pitching like one of the best starters in baseball. Tack on this no-hitter and Means is well on his way to the All-Star Game in Coors Field in July, with ace status attached to his name.
Right now, Means is 4-0 with a 1.37 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and 50 strikeouts against 10 walks in 46 innings. He's now shown he can go the distance, too. If they did such a thing as hand out hardware at the five-week mark of the 2021 season, Means would be on the short list for the AL Cy Young. The exclamation point in Seattle makes his case even more compelling.