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After tough 2016, hitless outing big for Chen

Lefty tossed seven superb innings Tuesday vs. Mariners
MLB.com @DougMillerMLB

SEATTLE -- The Marlins needed this one. And maybe even more important for Miami's hopes of playing October baseball, Wei-Yin Chen needed this one, too.

Chen did not complete a no-hitter in Tuesday night's 5-0 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field. Chen knew that the questions in the aftermath would be centered on that fact. After all, he was pulled from the game by manager Don Mattingly having not allowed a hit through seven innings and 100 pitches, which amounted to his -- and his team's -- deepest outing this year.

Full Game Coverage

SEATTLE -- The Marlins needed this one. And maybe even more important for Miami's hopes of playing October baseball, Wei-Yin Chen needed this one, too.

Chen did not complete a no-hitter in Tuesday night's 5-0 win over the Mariners at Safeco Field. Chen knew that the questions in the aftermath would be centered on that fact. After all, he was pulled from the game by manager Don Mattingly having not allowed a hit through seven innings and 100 pitches, which amounted to his -- and his team's -- deepest outing this year.

Full Game Coverage

"I think my changeup was working pretty well, and [catcher A.J.] Ellis was leading me very effectively," Chen said through an interpreter. "He called the pitches very well. And I had solid defense behind me. … So that's why I was able to keep the hitters uncomfortable all night."

But for a pitcher who had a serious elbow ligament injury in a largely forgettable 2016, and was coming off a three-inning, six-run shellacking against the Mets in his previous start, Tuesday was a revelation. Chen wasn't overpowering, only striking out two batters, but for the first six innings, he was brilliantly efficient. He painted the strike zone and elicited mostly weak contact.

In fact, according to Statcast™, the only "barrel" was Taylor Motter's 99.8-mph deep fly ball in the fifth inning, which was caught easily by Christian Yelich at the warning track, and it accounted for the highest hit probability (64 percent) off Chen all night. Chen gave up only six batted balls with an exit velocity of more than 90 mph. Since the start of 2016, opponents had hit .441 with a slugging percentage of .869 against him on balls of more than 90 mph.

Video: MIA@SEA: Chen keeps no-no bid alive through seven

"Wei-Yin was good all night," Mattingly said. "He just kind of kept them at bay, changing speeds, both sides of the plate. … To bounce back in this one was really good, obviously, for us, but for him also."

But it wasn't enough to keep Chen in the game to try to finish a no-hitter, and the seventh inning was the reason. Chen walked Mitch Haniger to lead off the frame, and with one out, he hit Nelson Cruz with a pitch. Chen got the next two outs, but he was at 100 pitches. His night was done, and it wasn't a difficult decision for Mattingly.

"He understood," Mattingly said. "We talked about it, and I told him I couldn't let him go to 130 [pitches]. I'm not going to let him get in that range. I really don't care what anybody thinks, not [meaning] him, I care what he thinks, but anybody else other than that, I'm going to protect him, and I'm going to protect our club."

Chen took the decision in stride, knowing that there's a lot of baseball left in 2017.

"If given the choice, of course, any pitcher would like to go out there and keep pitching, but Don also, he talked to me and gave me his reasoning -- that he wanted to keep me healthy for the whole season, so under that situation, I tried not to think about it too much," Chen said. "It's his decision to make, so I didn't really think about it."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Miami Marlins, Wei-Yin Chen