In the first four innings of games last season, Chen posted an ERA of 4.01. This year, that number is down to 1.95, and he was at it again Friday night, blanking the Rockies through the first four frames.
But while Chen has started strong this year, he’s still struggled in the later innings, and those difficulties were in display again in the Orioles’ 6-3 loss.
Chen allowed four runs after the fourth inning, including a two-run home run to designated hitter Wilin Rosario with no outs in the seventh inning. In the sixth inning, Chen’s ERA is 4.97 — compared to 3.74 in 2012 — and in the seventh, it balloons to 11.37.
Chen’s home run totals jump later in games, too. Five of his eight home runs allowed have come in the sixth inning or later. Rosario’s shot eliminated Chen’s chance at recording a quality start, the first time in six home starts he’s failed to allow three or more runs in at least six innings.
Combined with the lack of run support — the Orioles have scored three or fewer runs in 26 of his past 39 starts — Chen’s struggled, losing three straight decisions. In those games, the Orioles had combined to score five runs when he was in the game.
“It's always frustrating not to give the starter runs,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “I love getting the starter the W. Chen goes out there and gives us a great chance every time. It's unfortunate we're not able to score more runs for him, but that's part of the game sometimes. We've just got to go and keep at it.
Chen still owns the lowest ERA out of the Orioles starters with a 3.23 mark — 14-game winner Chris Tillman has the next-lowest with a 3.70 — but the support from the offense hasn’t been there when he’s needed it.