|Orioles hope there's Means to an end vs. D-backs|
The Baltimore Orioles will send out their best starting pitcher Wednesday afternoon as they try to win a second consecutive series when they face the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix.
Baltimore split the first two games in the interleague series after winning two of three games at home against the Boston Red Sox.
Rookie left-hander John Means (8-5, 2.95 ERA) picked up one of those victories over Boston by allowing two runs and four hits over six innings on Friday.
"He did what John Means has done all year, keep guys off balance," Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. "I love that he flashed more breaking balls."
Means enters Wednesday's rubber match on a hot streak, having given up more than two earned runs just once in the past eight starts. He is 3-1 in those eight starts, losing only when he yielded six runs in six innings to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on July 13.
Means will be opposed by another 26-year-old rookie -- right-hander Taylor Clarke (2-3, 6.50 ERA).
Clarke struggled Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers, pitching for the first time since going on the injured list July 3 because of a back injury. The Brewers knocked him around for seven hits and four runs in 3 2/3 innings.
Arizona has been in one-step-forward, one-step-backward mode for more than a month. The Diamondbacks have not been more than two games above or below .500 since June 18. Baltimore won 7-2 Tuesday night to drop the D-backs to 51-51.
"Couldn't really get anything going offensively," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. "This is one of those games we have to throw it out, because the turnaround is pretty quick. We have to wash this one off as fast as we can so it doesn't linger into a day game."
Arizona optioned infielder Ildemaro Vargas to Triple-A Reno after the game, with a corresponding transaction to be announced Wednesday. The move could be the return of outfielder David Peralta (shoulder) from the injured list. He has been rehabbing in the rookie-level Arizona League.
One of the issues for Arizona lately has been that it hasn't scored after the fifth inning in any of the past six games, posting a 2-4 record in that span. Baltimore took a 7-2 lead in the third inning Tuesday night -- and that was that.
"Was it a bad loss? Yes," Lovullo said. "I think after the seven runs were scored, we got a little flat-lined. No doubt about it."
Baltimore's Renato Nunez has homered in each of the first two games of the series -- and in three of his past four games -- to give him a team-leading 24. He is usually the designated hitter for the Orioles but made his first start of the season at third base while playing under National League rules.
Hyde wanted to keep Nunez's bat in the lineup, along with Chris Davis, who played first. Nunez has 10 starts at first base this season after starting 56 games at third last year. Hyde has indicated that Nunez could see more time in the field at the corner spots.
"It feels great to be back over there," Nunez said on MASNsports.com. "I'm going to practice a lot, take a lot of ground balls and just enjoy the time there."
--Field Level Media