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Wei-Yin Chen's gem, J.J. Hardy's late homer lead Orioles to 4-2 win over Rangers

The last time Orioles lefty Wei-Yin Chen went eight innings and dominated an opponent – like he did Wednesday night in a 4-2 win over the Texas Rangers – he was promptly sent to High-A Frederick as part of the club's constant roster juggling.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter intimated that that won't be happening again, explaining his thinking as to why Chen didn't go back out in the ninth Wednesday with only 87 pitches thrown.

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"Hopefully he doesn't have any more missed starts [the] rest of the year, so every chance we get to give him a little blow here or there [we'll take]," Showalter said. "Because he's gonna be pitching on normal rest next time."

That statement was gladly received by Chen, who took to Twitter after his June 16 demotion to show his frustration with the decision.

"Of course I'm happy to hear [Showalter's comments]," Chen said through interpreter Louis Chao. "Because we talked about it and I'm happy that Buck trusts me. Also, I just wanted to do my job well and keep pitching well until the end of the season."

Heading into the game, Chen had been dominant in his career against the Rangers, a club that had blasted eight homers and scored 16 runs in their previous two games at Camden Yards this week.

Something had to give, and fortunately for the Orioles, it was Chen's mastery that continued before an announced 23,019.

Chen entered the evening 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts against the Rangers. And he mystified them again, allowing just four hits and two runs in eight impressive innings. He walked one, struck out two and was exceptionally efficient, throwing just 87 pitches, including 60 strikes.

He now has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last five starts and has a 2.84 ERA in 95 innings this season.

"He was very efficient, solid," Showalter said. "He was the difference tonight."

The Orioles (42-36) halted their modest two-game losing streak and now have a chance to salvage a split in the four-game series with a win Thursday in the finale against the Rangers (40-39).

Wednesday's crisp contest – which lasted a breezy 2 hours, 18 minutes – featured some outstanding defense, including two more highlight-reel plays in the seventh inning by third baseman Manny Machado.

"I love watching him play," shortstop J.J. Hardy said of Machado. "He does things every night that amaze me, and he does a lot of things that other third baseman can't do."

Said Chen: "With him behind me playing the defense, I feel very comfortable pitching out there."

But because this was Rangers-Orioles, there had to be some homers hit, of course. No matter how well Chen (4-4) pitched.

Texas outfielder Shin-Soo Choo started the scoring with a solo homer to right to lead off the third. It was the third consecutive game in which Choo hit a solo homer versus Orioles pitching.

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In the fourth, Ryan Rua slammed a Chen fastball onto the top of the grounds crew's shed in right for his second homer of the season and the Rangers' 10th in 22 innings at Camden Yards this series. They had homered four times each in their previous two wins this week.

The Orioles closed to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth on Jimmy Paredes' 10th homer of the season, a solo shot to right-center on a 90-mph fastball from right-hander Nick Martinez. It was the club's second hit against Martinez, who entered the game with a 3.39 ERA in 15 previous starts this year.

Paredes helped tie the game in the sixth on an RBI groundout that he just beat to first to avoid a double play.

The Orioles then took their first lead against Martinez in the seventh and their second of the entire series on – what else? – a homer: A two-run blast to left by Hardy, his fourth of the year. Hardy's longball scored Chris Davis, who had led off the inning with a single to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, tying a career high set in 2012.

"J.J.'s had a lot of big knocks for us," Showalter said. "His 1-for-3 or whatever is usually pretty productive."

Martinez (5-5) pitched well, but left with two on and two outs in the seventh. He allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk, losing his third straight decision.

Closer Zach Britton entered in the ninth and fanned the side – Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland, who went hitless Wednesday after homering four times in the first two contests of the series. It was Britton's 23rd save in 24 chances.

It also guaranteed Chen's third straight victorious decision, and the Taiwanese lefty seemed so pleased with his situation now that he actually answered a question in English. When asked why he has been so good against the Rangers, Chen waited for the translation but didn't focus his answer on the opponent.

He then bellowed three times with a big smile, "Just pitch, just pitch, just pitch."

twitter.com/danconnollysun

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