BALTIMORE -- Three full innings before Jonathan Villar's record-setting home run led the Orioles to their 7-3 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday night, John Means greeted Cody Bellinger with a slider. Three pitches later, Means offered another, which the front-runner for the National League MVP Award fouled off to draw the count back even. Means' next pitch was another slider, which Bellinger swung through for strike three.
One batter later, Means buried a slider behind home plate to strike out Enrique Hernandez. At many points elsewhere in navigating two and a half times through the Dodgers' lineup, Means used the pitch to generate bundles of soft outs, largely holding the NL's top offensive unit in check for 6 1/3 innings.
That the Dodgers scored two of their three on hung changeups in the sixth -- one A.J. Pollock's go-ahead homer -- only accentuated what little answer they had for Means' slider, which he threw a career-high 29 times. For the first time in his career, Means threw more sliders than changeups, deploying them mostly down and away to left-handed batters. He recorded half of his six strikeouts with that pitch.
Consider it the takeaway from what, given the opponent, qualified as one of Means' finer outings of the year, which Baltimore parlayed into victory with Villar's three-run tater in the seventh. Villar's 443-foot three-run shot off Caleb Ferguson was the 6,106th homer in the Majors this season, a new single-season record. The Orioles also received the first three-hit game of Austin Hays' career, two RBIs from Dwight Smith Jr. and a two-run homer in the eighth from Pedro Severino.