Before reporters had a chance to ask Wei-Yin Chen a question Friday night following his tremendous performance in a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the Orioles left-hander said he needed to make a statement.
Chen wanted to dedicate his eight-strikeout victory to those who were killed and injured in underground gas explosions and fires in his hometown of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, overnight Thursday. According to various news reports, at least 25 people were reported dead and more than 250 injured.
“Unfortunately, back in my hometown there was a horrible accident,” Chen said through interpreter Louis Chang. “So today, this win I would like to give out to my home people. And I would like to send out my best wishes to them and hope everybody is all right there.”
Chen said he called home Friday morning and his relatives were fine.
“The explosion was a little far away from my family,” he said.
Once he took the Camden Yards mound Friday night, Chen seemed focused solely on pounding catcher Caleb Joseph’s glove with strike after strike, particularly with his fastball and slider. He allowed just one run on a walk and five hits while setting his season high for strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. He threw 75 of his 104 pitches for strikes.
“Every pitch, he throws for a strike,” said Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano. “That’s a guy who you can’t say, 'I'm going to take one strike,' or 'I’m going to make him pitch.' Because everything he throws is a strike.”
Chen (12-3) has now mystified the Mariners twice in the last eight days after pitching eight shutout innings against them on July 24 in Seattle.
“He was working on some extra rest and we’ve always got a real good return for that,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said about Chen, who is 7-3 when pitching on six or more days of rest. “I’ll tell you, it’s tough when you have as good an outing as he had in Seattle to come back against that same team and have another good outing. That’s tough. It’s legit stuff.”
Chen has won five straight decisions and matched his big-league high in victories. Only reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer has more wins this year than Chen in the AL. Chen has won five straight outings and is 15-1 in games in which he has thrown at least seven innings in his career. The Orioles are 18-2 in those 20 games.
“I think it is not just me. As long as a starter gives a good start out there and gives innings to the team, we have a pretty good chance to win,” said Chen, who has a 3.76 ERA in 21 starts this year. “It also means that everybody plays really hard and everybody wants to win. So I don’t think it is just about me. I think it is about everybody.”
The one run allowed by Chen on Friday nearly didn’t happen. Cano attempted to score on Kendrys Morales’ double to left in the fourth inning. He might have been out at the plate, but Joseph couldn’t hold onto the relay throw.
That was the only blemish for the Orioles (61-47), who are now 22-17 in one-run games and 4-1 this year against the Mariners (56-53). The Orioles have won nine of their 15 games since the All Star Break – all against the tough AL West.
The win, combined with the Toronto Blue Jays' 3-1 loss to the Houston Astros, increased the Orioles' lead to 2.5 games in the AL East.
“I think everyone says that it starts with the starting pitching,” said Orioles shortstop J. J. Hardy. “I just look back after the All-Star break and facing these teams, as well as we’ve played, it’s huge for us.”
The Orioles scored first Friday on an RBI single up the middle by Manny Machado that plated Delmon Young, who had doubled. Young’s double was the first extra-base hit against Seattle’s 25-year-old rookie Roenis Elias. The Cuban left-hander, who was making his 22nd big league start, had faced the Orioles once before, allowing one run in five innings Sunday in Seattle.
He duplicated that Friday night, then ran into trouble in the sixth. Machado, who had three hits Friday, led off the inning with a double that nearly cleared the grounds crew shed in right. Adam Jones then hit a bouncer to short, and Machado appeared to be running into an out at third base. But Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor fumbled the ball on the exchange from his glove.
After two strikeouts by Elias (8-9), Hardy hit a single up the middle that a sliding Cano couldn’t quite snag. Machado scored the tiebreaker from third. That was Elias’ last batter – he was charged with two runs (one earned) on seven hits and a walk while striking out seven.
Chen was just a tad better. He didn’t walk a batter until the last one he faced with one out in the eighth. It was the fourth straight game in which Chen has given up one walk or none.
With Austin Jackson on first, Showalter pulled Chen, who walked off the mound to a rousing ovation from the announced crowd of 39,487, which continued its cheers as newcomer Andrew Miller entered the game.
“Pretty cool reception. I don’t think I ever dreamed of having anything like that,” Miller said. I don’t necessarily expect it again, but it was pretty neat.”
Making his Orioles debut after being dealt by the Boston Red Sox at the nonwaiver trade deadline Thursday, Miller induced a force out that nearly was an inning-ending double play, but Dustin Ackley beat out the throw to first. Ackley then stole second and raced to third when Joseph’s throw skipped into the outfield.
Miller walked Cano, but Morales grounded out to end the threat.
In the ninth, Showalter brought in his third consecutive lefty, closer Zach Britton, who recorded his 22nd save and seventh straight with a perfect ninth.
The game and the night, though, belonged to Chen, who was pitching for more than just himself and his teammates on Friday night.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun