With the Ed Smith Stadium flagpoles in left-center-field blowing out Sunday afternoon, Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen’s final tune-up before the regular season turned into a home-run derby.
In a contest that included eight home runs, Chen allowed three Rays long balls – including a grand slam to Tampa Bay leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings – in the Orioles’ 8-5 Grapefruit League finale loss to the Rays.
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“I’ve never seen the wind blow in so much [as it did] this spring,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We were due for one of those days. [Chen] should have given up two runs.”
Jennings hit homers in three consecutive at-bats, the first two off Chen and another off reliever Kevin Gregg.
But the big blow came in the top of the fourth, when Jennings launched a two-out, full-count delivery from Chen into the left-field stands with the bases loaded, giving the Rays a 6-1 lead. All four runs were unearned because of a J.J. Hardy fielding error that loaded the bases.
“This is still spring training and I felt good today actually,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “This is just part of the game. I felt good, really good.”
In four innings of work, Chen, who is likely to pitch in the Orioles' starting rotation, allowed seven runs (three earned), two walks and no strikeouts.
“He should have given up two runs,” Showalter said. “I thought his fastball was crisper. It’s gotten that way each time out now. There’s something there you can work with. He pitched pretty well for the most part. I think one of those home runs would have [actually] been a home run.”
Hardy hit a pair of solo homers to left – one in the first inning and another in the sixth – and Nick Johnson and Nick Markakis also hit solo shots for the Orioles.