Dominant Chen edges Mariners in pitchers' duel
Hardy laces game-winning single in sixth to give lefty his 12th victory
BALTIMORE -- In an emotional performance, Wei-Yin Chen struck out a season-high eight batters, allowed five hits and walked only the final batter he faced in his 7 1/3 innings before he left to a standing ovation in a 2-1 win against the Mariners in front of 39,487 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Late in the night on Thursday, explosions rolled Kaohsiung, Taiwan -- Chen's hometown -- as a gas leak triggered a series of blasts that killed dozens and left several hundred more injured. Chen's family was far from the blast, and he contacted them on Friday morning to find out that everyone was safe.
"Today, this win I would like to give out to my home people," Chen said through an interpreter on Friday night, "and I would like to send out my best wishes to them and hope everybody is all right there."
As the O's (61-47) offense slumps, their pitching has carried them during the past few weeks. Baltimore is 8-3 this season when Chen (12-3) goes at least six innings. In the Orioles' last 13 games at Camden Yards, the starting pitchers are 7-2 with a 3.14 ERA.
"Most of it is with Wei-Yin," manager Buck Showalter said. "He's really solid for us here lately in a time of need, obviously standings-wise."
On a strikeout pitch to Austin Jackson that ended Seattle's fifth inning, Chen hit some rare territory. Pitching on seven days of rest, the lefty reared back and fired a fastball to the outfielder at 95 mph.
Only a handful of times has Chen reached that number this season, and with two extra days to refresh his arm, he got near that mark on a consistent basis. Rather than his fastball hovering around 91 mph, it was at 93 and 94.
Chen paired that extra bit of fire with an especially good slider to strike out the most batters he had in one game since Sept. 12, 2013, and win his fifth consecutive decision.
"Sometimes after extra days of rest I feel great, but sometimes I don't feel that great," Chen said. "This time, I just tried to keep my feeling out there from the last time, and tried to repeat my routines and give a good game out there. I did, and I was happy about that."
In the third inning, the stumbling Orioles offense, which has scored more than four runs just twice since the All-Star break, ended a 19-inning scoreless drought on an RBI single by third baseman Manny Machado off Mariners starting pitcher Roenis Elias, and Baltimore needed help from an error before plating the decisive unearned run in the sixth.
Elias (8-9) surrendered a leadoff double to Machado, and an error by Mariners shortstop Chris Taylor gave the O's runners on the corners with no outs. Elias struck out Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis looking, but shortstop J.J. Hardy broke through with a go-ahead single up the middle to eke out another win despite a dearth of offense.
"Everyone says it starts with the starting pitching," Hardy said. "I just look back after the All-Star break and facing these teams, as well as we've played, it's huge for us."
After throwing at least 104 pitches for just the fourth time this season, Chen sits in a tie for second place in the American League in wins. While wins are an imperfect stat, it's telling that Chen won more than 12 games only once during his Nippon Professional Baseball career.
The pitching staff is suddenly carrying a team known for its offense, and Chen's continued development into this group's ace is setting a tone.
"I didn't really do anything different than any previous year, but I think the biggest reason I can be on such a good streak is my teammates," Chen said. "I think that's the reason. It's not me. It's my teammates."