Carroll County Times

Solid hitting, Chen's strong start lead O's over Rays

BALTIMORE - The 2013 season didn't end kindly for Wei-Yin Chen. And the 2014 season hadn't started much better.

The Baltimore Orioles left-hander was winless in his final seven starts last year. He was 1-1 entering Monday but hadn't pitched particularly well, giving up eight runs on 21 hits in 10 2-3 innings over those two starts.

Against the Tampa Bay Rays Monday, Chen turned in his best start of the young season and one of his best since last August, giving up just one run in 6 1-3 innings and guiding Baltimore to a 7-1 win before 15,799 at Camden Yards.

"I think the main difference is tonight the movement on my pitches was better than the previous games, so the hitters were having more trouble," Chen said through his interpreter. "In my last outing, my teammates did a fantastic job scoring well for me, but I didn't do a really good job. So I was really trying to do a good job for the team and to get a win."

Chen (2-1) opened the game by retiring the first 10 batters before walking Desmond Jennings in the top of the fourth. The left-hander gave up his first hit in the fifth, a one-out double to James Loney.

Tampa Bay (7-7) didn't score a run off Chen, who gave up six hits and struck out four, until the sixth on an Evan Longoria RBI single. By then, it was too late, as the Orioles (6-7) had already struck for seven runs in the first five innings.

Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, who helped lead the offensive attack by going 3 for 4 with an RBI, a double and two runs scored, agreed with Chen that the left-hander's stuff was better this outing.

"Command of the fastball is always big. The big thing is he was able to stay down in the zone," Wieters said. "If you can get those first- and second-pitch outs you can get deep in the game and he did that for us."

Baltimore hasn't had a history of giving Chen much run support. In fact, in Chen's last 50 starts, dating back to 2012, the Orioles have scored three or fewer runs 32 times.

Monday was not one of those offensive struggles, and Chen was appreciative of both that and the solid defense played behind him.

"The defense really picked me up tonight," Chen said. "Those plays helped me settle down."

Baltimore turned three double plays, Steve Lombardozzi made several difficult plays at second base, and the Orioles' solid defense prevented Tampa Bay from having many rallies.

"They hit a lot of balls hard," Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said. "Fortunately, we had people where they hit them."

In the series this past weekend against Toronto, the Orioles had scored just five runs over the three-games series loss.

The Orioles didn't wait long Monday to start battering Rays starter Chris Archer (1-1). Wieters drove in a run in the first. Ryan Flaherty had an RBI single in the second, and Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis later followed with back-to-back RBI doubles that put Baltimore up 4-0.

J.J. Hardy, who went 3 for 4, had an RBI double in the third and Lombardozzi drove in another run with a single.

Flaherty added one more with an RBI single the next inning and chased Archer in the fifth. The Rays right-hander gave up seven runs on 12 hits, both career highs.

"We were able to kind of keep the ball rolling," Wieters said. "A lot of big two-out hits, a lot of big RBIs with guys on second. It wasn't really the long ball that did it tonight but we found a way to win."

NOTES: Injured third baseman Manny Machado ran sprints Monday, running 90 feet six times. On Tuesday, he'll progress to running 180 feet at a time, and possibly running the bases. ... Dylan Bundy, who is continuing rehab after having Tommy John surgery last season, threw 35 pitches Monday, including his change-up for the first time. The plan is for Bundy to work in his breaking ball by the end of the week. ... Rays manager Joe Maddon challenged a play in the fifth inning when Lombardozzi was ruled safe at first base by umpire Greg Gibson. The play stood after a review that lasted 2 minutes, 47 seconds. It was the second replay review at Camden Yards. ... The Orioles won a series opener for just the second time this season, the other coming on Opening Day against Boston.