One of the most disconcerting things about the Orioles’ recent troubles has been the declining performance of lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who had been such a consistent contributor in his first season-plus with the club.
He had just one quality start in his previous four outings and his last two were the opposite of quality. He lasted just 7 2/3 innings combined while yielding 11 earned runs on 12 hits and eight walks.
You had to wonder whether the long season – despite his time off due to injury – was getting to Chen.
But he rebounded in a big way against an anemic Chicago White Sox offense Saturday. He allowed just two runs on six hits and no walks. He struck out eight batters – his second highest total this season – and threw 70 of his 99 pitches for strikes.
“Today was a different outing,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “Last outing, I was really focused on my velocity and I overthrew a lot. But today I just focused on the plate and just focused on [catcher Chris] Snyder’s mitt and attacking the zone. I didn’t really worry about my velocity. I just worried about my location. And pretty much my location was really good today.”
He was hitting his spots with his fastball and breaking stuff. And he likely could have gone longer. But Chen has had problems in the later innings, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter chose to go with his bullpen in the seventh.
"I almost took him out after the fifth,” Showalter said. “One of the challenges is trying to decide when and who they'll pinch-hit for. This time of year, they've got so many options, so I was going hitter to hitter with Wei-Yin there.”
Chen, who has allowed 32 runs in the first five innings this season and 15 in the sixth and seventh, said he understood Showalter’s decision.
“I trust Buck. I trust Buck’s decisions. And being able to go out there and bring a win for the team, that’s huge for us,” Chen said. “Every game is really important to us. And I think today is a huge win for us. I don’t want to think too much, focus on being out there and being myself. And throwing strikes, throw my fastball. And I don’t feel tired at all. I think I am still very strong.”
If the Orioles have a chance to get a wild-card spot, they’ll need Chen at his best. And, after Saturday, he’s hopeful he has gotten over the worst.
“I’m very satisfied today. I limited the runs I gave out and I tried to trust my defense today,” Chen said. “They did a great job and I have to give credit to my teammates.”