Wei-Yin Chen makes perhaps last Orioles start in doubleheader sweep of Yankees

If this was Wei-Yin Chen's last start as an Oriole, it was certainly one fans will remember fondly.

Manny Machado homered in both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader, lefty Wei-Yin Chen excelled in what could be his last start with the club and the Orioles kept alive their hopes of finishing the season at .500 by sweeping the New York Yankees, 9-2 and 4-3.

The Orioles (80-81) must win Sunday’s season finale to avoid their first losing season since 2011, Buck Showalter’s first full year as the club's manager.

“We’re never putting our head down. Let’s move on to finishing .500,” said outfielder Gerardo Parra, who had six hits in Saturday’s two games. “We know we’re not going to the playoffs. When the guys finish strong, we feel better.”

In the second game, starter Ubaldo Jimenez picked up his third straight quality start, allowing three runs in six innings in a no-decision. But he couldn’t hold onto a two-run lead in the fifth, allowing the Yankees to tie the game at 3-3.

Even so, Jimenez said it was a good finish to the season.

"It means I was able to improve and I’m definitely going to get more confidence from this year going into the offseason knowing I was able to improve," said Jimenez, who went 12-10 with a 4.11 ERA one year after going 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA. "I know that I still have a lot of things to do to get better -- be more consistent, get deeper in the game, things like that -- but I was able to improve later in the year and that was a good sign."

Before an announced 35,198 Saturday night, the Orioles earned the win with a little small ball that had been missing much of the season.

In the bottom of the eighth, Paul Janish singled and moved to second on a wild pitch by Yankees reliever Dellin Betances (6-4). Parra dropped an excellent bunt for a single and then Janish scored from third on Betances' second wild pitch of the inning. 

“You're not going to get a whole lot off Betances there, so we kind of scratched one across there. They helped us a little bit,” Showalter said.

Zach Britton threw a scoreless ninth for his 36th save, guaranteeing the doubleheader sweep and preserving the win for T.J. McFarland (2-2).

In the early game, a makeup of Friday’s rainout, it was Chen that set the tone.

A pending free agent this winter after four seasons with the Orioles, Chen walked off the mound with two runners on and no outs in the seventh to a standing ovation from many in the announced crowd of 29,227, which was, in actuality, much smaller.

Chen barely looked up to the stands, but said he definitely heard the cheers.

“Of course, I noticed that. I really appreciate all the fans treating me so nice here,” Chen said through interpreter Louis Chao. “This is my last start of the season, so I just want to pitch a real good game for all the fans.”

The question is whether it was the last Orioles start of the 30-year-old’s career. He acknowledged that possibility, really, for the first time Saturday. Previously he has said he was concentrating on pitching this season.

“I would be happy if I was given the chance to come back here. But sometimes as a professional player, it’s inevitable that you have to change teams and adapt to a new environment,” he said. “I don't know where I will pitch next year. I just know I will do my best to pitch [in] each game.”

Showalter said Chen was “solid” Saturday, the way the Taiwanese lefty has been throughout his career since joining the Orioles from the Japan Central League in 2012.

“I'm real proud of him,” Showalter said, “Anytime you go to another country, you realize how challenging it is for them, so you try to have some real sympathy for that and he handled it real well. I see how he interacts with all our players. He's been a great competitor for us.”

Reliever Brad Brach allowed both inherited runners to score in the seventh to ruin Chen’s bid for a scoreless outing. But Chen still picked up the victory — his 11th of the season and 46th of his Orioles career. Chen (11-8) was charged with two runs on four hits and three walks in six-plus innings. He ended up with 191 1/3 innings this year, just shy of his career high of 192 2/3 set as a rookie.

“It’s a pity I couldn’t get to 200 innings,” Chen said. “But compared to last season, I think overall this is a better season because I have improved in a lot of aspects.”

It was the 20th quality start in 31 outings this year for Chen, who has registered quality starts — six innings or more, three earned runs or fewer — in 64.5 percent of his games as an Oriole.

He was never in any real trouble Saturday, cruising through six innings while his teammates scored in nearly every frame against Yankees starter Ivan Nova (6-11) and handed Chen a 7-0 lead before he left the game.

The Orioles had 15 hits in the first game; four by Parra and three by J.J. Hardy.  Parra and Machado each had three RBIs. Machado homered in the fifth inning and then in the nightcap’s third inning, for his 35th of the year and fifth home run in four games.

“I’m not going up there and just swinging at pitches I don’t want to be swinging at,” Machado said. “There’s really nothing to it. I’m just becoming a better hitter.”

Said Showalter: "I looked up there tonight and I went, ‘He’s got 35 home runs.’ One of the most impressive things is 100 runs scored. … It’s hard to do. One, to stay on the field that much. I don’t know what else you can ask a guy to do.”

Nolan Reimold led off the second game with a homer, the first leadoff long ball of his career.

The story of Saturday, though, was Chen, and the response he received as he left the Camden Yards mound.

“It was awesome,” Machado said. “There’s something about Wei-Yin. He comes out every day and grinds and pitches to the last [out] is made. He’s a guy we definitely want in this organization. He’s a guy we love to play behind. He’s definitely going to be missed. Hopefully, we’ll re-sign him back because we need him here.”

If he does go elsewhere, Chen, whose ERA dropped to 3.34, said it will be difficult to leave his teammates behind.

“It’s very tough to say goodbye to all the people here because during these four years we played alongside each other,” Chen said. “There were ups, there were downs. And when I’m down, they always encouraged me, they helped me a lot. So I think it’s really tough to say goodbye to everybody here.”

And if he does leave, he might be able to do so on a positive note -- with the Orioles still in position to finish at least .500 for the fourth straight season.

“You’re trying to find a way to finish strong," Jimenez said. "... It’s going to be good for the team. It’s going to give everybody more confidence that we finished the season strong.” 

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

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