Red Sox starting pitcher Nick Pivetta gives a thumbs up after Baltimore’s Ryan O’Hearn flew out on Friday in Baltimore. Pivetta pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits, walking one and striking out 10. Julio Cortez/Associated Press

BALTIMORE — Four starts into his comeback from Tommy John surgery, John Means believes he can help the Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs.

“I really do,” the left-hander said. “I feel like the command’s there. … I feel like 99% of my pitches are right where I want.”

Means took a perfect game into the fifth inning of Baltimore’s 3-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday night. The problem was, the opposing starter was ultimately better. Nick Pivetta allowed two hits in seven impressive innings for the Red Sox.

Trevor Story hit a two-run homer off Means in the fifth.

A day after winning the AL East title, the Orioles did little offensively but had to be encouraged by their starter’s effort. Means (1-2) pitched into the seventh inning and looked like a solid option for Baltimore when it sets up its postseason rotation.

Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez look like the top candidates to start for the Orioles in the AL Division Series, but beyond that, it’s harder to say.

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Means was Baltimore’s Opening Day starter last year but needed Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch again for the Orioles until this month. This was his fourth start.

“I feel like I’ve gotten better as I went,” Means said.

The left-hander retired his first 13 batters before Rob Refsnyder doubled and Story followed with a drive over the big wall in left field at Camden Yards. The Red Sox also scored a run in the ninth.

Means allowed three hits in 6 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and no walks.

“I thought Means threw the ball really well,” Orioles Manager Brandon Hyde said. “They were aggressive early in the count, and they got a lot of early-count outs there, especially in the first third of the game. Really good changeup again and I thought he located his fastball well. He didn’t throw that many breaking balls, but good changeup again.”

Pivetta (10-9) struck out 10 with a walk. If this was his final appearance of 2023, he finished with a flourish, throwing seven scoreless innings in each of his last two starts.

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“His fastball has always been elite, no doubt about it,” Red Sox Manager Alex Cora said. “The addition of that cutter/slider, it’s been good. It’s not great right now. Now he has time in the offseason to go work with it, make it better. He will.”

Garrett Whitlock worked the final two innings for his first save of the season.

This four-game series has started much differently than the teams’ previous meetings. In the first nine Baltimore-Boston games this year, the Orioles and Red Sox combined to average 12.9 runs a game. This week, they’ve traded shutout victories, 2-0 and 3-0.

Rafael Devers drove in a run in the ninth with a chopper to the pitcher. He needs one more RBI for his third career 100-RBI season.

HONORING PALMER

The Orioles held an on-field ceremony before the game celebrating Hall of Famer Jim Palmer’s 60th anniversary with the team. Palmer pitched for Baltimore from 1965-84 after signing as an amateur free agent in 1963. He now broadcasts Orioles games on TV.

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