Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher John Means throws against the Seattle...

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher John Means throws against the Seattle Mariners during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, May 5, 2021, in Seattle.  Credit: AP/Ted S. Warren

SEATTLE -- The clubhouse celebration that awaited John Means was more than 50 years in the making for the Baltimore Orioles and more like a playoff berth being clinched rather than a Wednesday in May.

Only a wild pitch in the dirt kept the Orioles from celebration perfection. That’s how dominant Means was in throwing the major leagues’ third no-hitter of the season in Baltimore’s 6-0 win over the Seattle Mariners.

It's the earliest on the calendar that there have been three no-hitters in a season since Bill Stoneman, Jim Maloney and Don Wilson had done so by May 1 in the 1969 season.

A franchise still in the midst of a rebuild and little to celebrate in recent seasons was happy to put the spotlight on its tall lefty who overmatched the Mariners with an array of unhittable fastballs, breaking pitches and a deadly changeup. No, it wasn’t perfection. But it was about as close as it comes.

"I never really thought I’d be here. I’d always write MLB player when I was a kid on the on the sheet when asked you when you what you wanted to do when you’re older, but I never thought it was a reality," Means said. "And now that it is, and now I’m able to throw this, it’s crazy and I don’t even know how to describe it."

This wasn’t a fluke performance — Means has been one of the best pitchers in the American League to start this season. This was domination.

Means (4-0) struck out 12 and walked none. Seattle’s only baserunner was Sam Haggerty after he raced to first swinging on a curveball in the dirt for strike three with one outs in the third inning. The 1-2 bounced away from catcher Pedro Severino and ended up being the only blemish that separated Means from a perfect game. Haggerty wasn’t on base long, getting thrown out attempting to steal second.

"I could care less that it wasn’t perfect game," Means said following his first complete game in 44 career big league starts. Means pitched the first non-perfect no-hitter in which the opposing team did not reached on a walk, hit by pitch or error, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Means threw 79 strikes among 113 pitches, including first-pitch strikes to 26 of 27 batters. When Seattle did make contact against the 28-year-old lefthander, it was weak and there were no threats to fall in for a hit.

Means lowered his ERA to 1.37 and became the first individual Orioles pitcher to toss a no-hitter since Jim Palmer against Oakland on Aug. 13, 1969. It was the 10th no-hitter in franchise history, including six as Baltimore after four as the St. Louis Browns.

"It’s such a crazy feeling. It’s such a whirlwind of an experience. I don’t think I’ve been able to process it yet," Means said. "But to be in the same breath as Palmer, I don’t think that it gets much better than that."

In a season in which batters are on track to hit a record-low .234, Means joined a no-hit club that includes gems by San Diego righthander Joe Musgrove at Texas on April 9 and by Chicago White Sox lefthander Carlos Rodon against Cleveland on April 14. In addition, Arizona lefthander Madison Bumgarner pitched a seven-inning no-hitter against Atlanta on April 25, but that is not recognized as an official no-hitter by Major League Baseball because the game did not go at least nine innings, shortened under pandemic rules in effect for a second straight season.

"Really can’t put into words what the last three outs, seeing how the teammates embraced him," Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. "Our your clubhouse after the game it was like we clinched a playoff spot."

The closest Seattle came to a hit through six innings was J.P. Crawford’s short fly ball in the sixth that centerfielder Cedric Mullins caught with a slide. Kyle Lewis provided a threat with a drive leading off the eighth that Austin Hays caught on the leftfield warning track.

Means got a popout from Dylan Moore, struck out Haggerty swinging and induced a soft liner from Crawford to end it, setting off a wild celebration with his teammates on the mound and a standing ovation from the crowd.

"He was good. He was really good," Seattle’s Kyle Seager said. "He was in control. I don’t think we had hardly any balls that were close to being hits."

Baltimore’s previous no-hitter came on July 13, 1991, when Bob Milacki, Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson combined for a 2-0 victory at Oakland.

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