Wei-Yin Chen has pitched far better this season than his record indicates. On most nights, he's given his team deep starts, but has been a victim of poor run support or, in some case, just bad luck.
However, the Orioles left-hander could briefly enjoy the moment Monday night, walking off the field to a standing ovation after throwing eight scoreless innings in his team's 4-0 victory over the hapless Philadelphia Phillies in front of an announced 23,730 at Camden Yards.
“It's been awhile since I had that, so yes, I [felt] great,” Chen through interpreter Louis Chao about going eight shutout innings.
Chen made quick work of a Phillies team that has scored the fewest runs in baseball. Following a 27-minute rain delay before the start of the game, the Orioles needed just two hours, nine minutes to claim victory.
For the Orioles (32-31), the win was their seventh in their last eight games and their ninth in 11.
Chen's outing ended a string of eight straight games in which an Orioles starting pitcher failed to go six full innings. And the Orioles' last seven-inning outing was 15 days ago, a seven-inning losing outing by Chen on May 30.
He posted eight shutout innings for the second time in his career. Chen also tossed eight scoreless frames on April 26, 2013 at Oakland.
"That was good, obviously,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He threw 75 strikes out of 106. Sometimes, guys throw too many, but he was in attack mode. Last two or three times, he's had a good slider. Had some depth to it. … He can command his fastball to both sides of the plate, but it gives him something that's not on the same plane. When you can go a different speed and a different plane, it bodes well for you.”
The Orioles are catching the reeling Phillies at the right time, playing the first of four consecutive games against a team that is averaging an MLB-worst 3.03 runs a game and has lost 17 of 20.
The Phillies (22-43) were aggressive at the plate, and Chen took advantage of that by getting quick outs and keeping his pitch count down.
“They were coming out swinging, so locating that first pitch was pretty important tonight,” said catcher Matt Wieters, who broke the game open with a three-run homer in the sixth inning off Phillies starter Aaron Harang. “When you get some early outs, that sets you up later in the game to be able to get deep in the game as well as allow you to kind of play with some pitches later in the game that you can kind of set up some other stuff.”
The Orioles scored all four runs with two outs.
Wieters, playing in just his eighth game back from Tommy John surgery, hit his second homer of the season and his first at Camden Yards since May 1, 2014. He took a 1-2 slider from Harang and sent it onto the flag court above the right-field fence.
“I chased a pitch on 1-1, so I wanted to get something that was going to stay in the zone,” Wieters said. “And he threw a breaking ball that was probably a lot more of the zone than he wanted to throw.”
The game was scoreless until the fifth, when Travis Snider hit a flyball that Phillies left fielder Cody Asche misplayed in front of the fence and dropped for a two-out double. J.J. Hardy followed with an RBI single up the middle to plate Snider.
The story of the night was Chen, who recorded his eighth quality start in 13 outings this season. That consistency hasn't led to wins. In Chen's eight quality starts, he's won just two, losing two and receiving four no decisions. In those eight are five starts in which he's gone seven or more innings.
Chen allowed just four hits and tied a season-high with nine strikeouts. He didn't allow a ball to reach the outfield until Cameron Rupp's fly out to right to open the sixth. After seven innings of work, he had allowed three baserunners, a pair of hits by Cesar Hernandez and a second-inning walk to Chase Utley.
"I felt great, and all my pitches was working today, and Wieters [called] a great game for me and my teammates play [great] defense behind me," Chen said.
After Hernandez's leadoff bunt single in the fourth, Chen retired eight straight and appeared on his way for a complete game, sitting at 67 pitches following a six-pitch sixth inning.
But Hernandez looped a leadoff double to right-center field to lead off the seventh. Chen stranded Hernandez at second, however, escaping the inning by striking out the side while going through the middle of the Phillies batting order — whiffing Maikel Franco, Ryan Howard and Jeff Francoeur.
Utley opened the eighth with a hit to right field, but right fielder Nolan Reimold threw Utley out at second attempting to stretch the hit into a double for the Orioles' majors-leading 21st outfield assist.
Chen allowed a single to Asche, but kept the shutout intact by striking out Rupp looking and inducing a ground out to second from Freddy Galvis. After retiring Galvis, Chen tapped his hand in his glove and walked off the field to a standing ovation. Closer Zach Britton pitched a perfect ninth in a non-save situation.
“It's one of those things that if you're consistently pitching well, then those things work themselves out,” Showalter said of Chen. “Over the long haul, you'll get rewarded for it. He'll have an outing when he goes five and isn't real crisp and we'll score some runs and he'll get a W for it. You've just got to keep grinding through it.”