The Orioles tried not to make a big deal of Wei-Yin Chen’s absence for nearly two months because of a strained oblique.
But the Taiwanese lefty has been exceptionally consistent in his year-plus, major league career and not having him take the ball every fifth day has been a challenge – as manager Buck Showalter would say – for the Orioles.
Consider that when Chen goes at least seven innings in a start – it happened nine times last year and for the second time this season Wednesday – the Orioles are 11-0.
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“It’s exciting to have him back, but it doesn’t mean we’re just going to throw our glove out there,” Showalter said. “We’ve got to catch it and do a lot of other things to make it work. But I like our chances a lot better with him here.”
Chen may actually be going back to the minors – for one start anyway.
He’s pitched just three times since May 12 because of the oblique injury: two minor league rehab games at Double-A Bowie and his return to the Orioles on Wednesday.
More than anyone else, Chen needs to keep pitching. And if that means optioning him to Frederick to pitch July 15 (or the 16th on the road in Altoona for Bowie) and stay on turn for July 21 or July 22 for the Orioles – then that’s what has to happen.
Showalter and company are great when it comes to thinking big picture. And a brief demotion to keep Chen moving forward is probably the best for his long-term survival in the second half.
“To be frank with you, yes we are [considering it],” Showalter said. “I don't know if we're going to or not, but we talked about it during the day and decided to wait and see how he looked and then we talked about it a little bit before I came down here [after the game] and we'll talk about it a little bit more. We can option him. I'm not saying we're going to.”
** Cameras caught Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson in a suite Wednesday enjoying the game. When he was put up on the big screen above right center, Robinson received a rousing ovation from the fans.
And that wasn’t lost on Showalter – who really has embraced the Orioles’ tradition and past successes.
“There’s always a special significance. I stopped whatever I was doing and watched. I love watching. Brooks is one of the treasures of baseball, let alone the Orioles,” Showalter said. “He’s special. We’re so lucky to have him show up here. To think that Brooks Robinson thought the most important thing today was to come watch us play, that’s pretty cool. If we had played really bad tonight, that would have been a really tough thing to live with.”
** Hey, in case you didn’t notice, the Orioles know how to walk. They received a season-high seven free passes Wednesday.
They had walked six times in four different games this year. But here’s the kicker: None of those games came after April 30. So they walked six times in four different games in April, and then not again until last night.
Being aggressive is great when you’re homering, but when the home runs go dry, you need to score runs in other ways. And one way is taking what is given to you. The Orioles had entered Wednesday 27th of 30 teams in the majors in walks. And that’s not acceptable for a contending team. Showalter hinted Wednesday that he made that very apparent to his team recently.
** The Orioles lost the first two games of their series with Texas on the big inning. Monday night, the Rangers posted a six-run sixth. Tuesday, it was a four-run fifth. Both times, it was too much of a deficit to make up for a struggling offense.
Wednesday night, the Orioles finally got their big inning — and a win.
Thanks to an RBI single off the top of the right-center field wall by second baseman Brian Roberts and a three-run home run by left fielder Nolan Reimold down the left field line in the fourth, the Orioles had their first four-run inning since posting two in their 11-3 win over the New York Yankees on June 29.
And it was enough breathing room behind left-hander Wei-Yin Chen’s performance.
“You win a lot of games with the big innings,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “On defense you’re going to want to try to stop the big inning, and on offense you’re trying to get a couple because it definitely helps your chances of winning a game.”