The euphoria that sprung from the Orioles’ late comeback on Opening Day will enshroud the club right up until gametime tonight, when Wei-Yin Chen makes his 2013 regular-season debut against Tampa Bay Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson. Then it will be up to Chen to create his own Orioles Magic in the second difficult pitching matchup of the series.
Everyone knows how well Chen settled into the Orioles rotation last year and ended up being the team’s most dependable starter, but that doesn’t mean he’ll automatically pick up right where he left off.
The Rays and the Orioles’ other upcoming opponents have had a year to digest what Chen does on the mound, so he won’t be sneaking up on anybody this year. He’ll probably have to make some adjustments on the fly to the adjustments that will surely be made by opposing hitters, but the good news is that he has shown he can do that.
His performance last year against the Rays is a great example. He started against Tampa Bay five times in 2012 and was 2-2, but he gave up five runs over 5 2/3 innings the first time he faced the Rays and allowed three runs over 6 2/3 innings in a losing effort his second time out against them.
In those first two starts, he was 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA. In his next two starts, both after Aug. 1, he pitched a total of 21 innings and gave up just three earned runs (1.29 ERA). So, he delivered four quality starts in five attempts and improved markedly in his final three starts.
Based on last year’s performances, tonight’s game should be a pitched battle. Hellickson, who won a Gold Glove for his defensive acumen last year, was 10-11 in 2012, but his won-loss record was very deceiving. He finished the season with a very solid 3.10 ERA and had very good ratios, but was the victim of scant offensive support.
His performance against the Orioles was a microcosm of his 2012 season. He faced them six times and gave up just nine runs over 34 innings (2.38 ERA), but he got the victory in just two of those six starts despite giving up one earned run or fewer four times. The Rays scored a total of 13 runs in those six games.
In short, his own offense was more of a problem for him than the opposition’s. Chen will need to keep it that way to win this very tough matchup.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun