Chen, Wieters help Orioles avoid sweep

BALTIMORE - For the first time during their three-game series against the red-hot Oakland Athletics, the Orioles were able to get strong pitching, run support, and a win.

Wei-Yin Chen had a career-high 12 strikeouts, catcher Matt Wieters busted out of a slump and Baltimore avoided a sweep, 6-1, in front of 19,698 at Camden Yards Sunday.

In only 5 2-3 innings, Chen set a record for most strikeouts in a game by a Taiwanese-born pitcher. Chien-Ming Wang previously held the record with 10 on June 17, 2007 when he pitched for the Yankees.

"First of all, I think my fastball located really well today," Chen said through his interpreter. "Everything was down, and my breaking ball and off-speed pitch [were] really good today."

Chen (9-6) gave up one unearned run on three hits and his 12 strikeouts were the most by an Orioles pitcher since July 7, 2007, when Erik Bedard struck out 15 against the Texas Rangers. On Sunday, Chen threw 108 pitches, 75 for strikes.

In both the first and fourth innings, Chen struck out all three batters he faced. In the two appearances against Oakland this year, Chen has given up just one earned run over 12 2-3 innings.

"He's improved every start he's gone out there, which is what's impressive," Wieters said. "His breaking stuff is really coming along. ... He knows where in the zone he needs to go to be able to get strikeouts and to be able to get groundballs."

Chen became the first Orioles pitcher to have more than 10 strikeouts in six or fewer innings pitched. Sunday's win was the sixth time Chen has allowed one run or fewer.

"He's handled himself well and he's been consistent, for the most part," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's a real competitive guy. ... He holds himself to high standards and I see the work he does between starts to be there for his team."

In nine of Chen's last 13 starts, the Orioles (53-49) had scored three or fewer runs. But on Sunday, the Orioles' offense scored five runs off of Athletics starter Travis Blackley (3-3) while Chen was in the game.

Baltimore scored first on an Adam Jones RBI double to left-center in the third inning, scoring Omar Quintanilla from third, and advancing J.J. Hardy to third. Wieters then hit a three-run homer off of an 0-1 pitch to left, giving the Orioles a 4-0 lead.

Wieters had missed the last two games because of a sore right biceps and was stuck in a 1-for-31 slump prior to smashing his 13th homer of the season, his first since July 5 against.

"It was hard sitting on it for the last two days," Wieters said. "When you're not swinging the bat well, you want to keep getting in there and the only way to feel good at the plate is to keep swinging."

Showalter added: "The last couple days, he's been champing at the bit to get back in there. He did a great job with Chen."

The Orioles increased their lead to 5-0 when Hardy scored on the second of two errors by Oakland first baseman Chris Carter, who could not hold onto the throw from second.

Quintanilla, who was acquired by the Orioles in a trade with the Mets on July 20, went 3 for 4 with a solo home run to right field in the sixth to make the score 6-1, and was a triple shy of the cycle. Quintanilla has gone 11 for 26, hitting .423, in nine games for Baltimore, and had at least two hits in all three games against Oakland (55-46).

"It's been real exciting," Quintanilla said. "I'm real blessed with the opportunity that I have here and I'm just trying to go out there and have fun, doing anything I can to help the team win."

Prior to Sunday's game, Oakland had won 13 of its last 15 games and had lost just three games in July.

Baltimore and Oakland, who have split six games this season, are two of many teams vying for a wild card spot in the American League, but Wieters said the Orioles are not paying attention to the standings.

"Not yet, too many teams involved, too many games to go," Wieters said. "We just got to go worry about winning games and that's how you're going to be there at the end is just keep winning as many games as you can."

NOTES: Lew Ford made his Orioles debut after having his contract selected late Saturday night. Ford started in left field. batted fifth, and finished 0 for 3 with a walk and an outfield assist. ... Jim Thome was out of the lineup for the second game with neck spasms. Thome said he hopes to return to the lineup in New York against the Yankees. ... Nick Markakis went 0 for 4 snapping an eight-game hit streak. ... Pedro Strop pitched a scoreless inning, his 10th straight scoreless appearance spanning 9 2-3 innings.