MIAMI -- Before the season, the Marlins weren't sure what to expect from Wei-Yin Chen. After two straight injury-plagued seasons, the organization wasn't even convinced the left-hander would be available in the first half.Chen's return has exceeded expectations, and on Saturday, the 32-year-old left-hander turned in one of his top
MIAMI -- Before the season, the Marlins weren't sure what to expect from Wei-Yin Chen. After two straight injury-plagued seasons, the organization wasn't even convinced the left-hander would be available in the first half.
Chen's return has exceeded expectations, and on Saturday, the 32-year-old left-hander turned in one of his top performances since signing with the Marlins in 2016. He gave up one run in 7 1/3 innings in a no-decision on a day the Nationals rallied late for a 4-1 victory over Miami at Marlins Park.
Although the Marlins have dropped the series, Chen provided plenty of encouraging signs, working nicely with catcher J.T. Realmuto and trusting his defense.
"A tough one, obviously," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Wei-Yin really good today. A lot in the tank, it seemed like. Kind of checked with J.T. every inning and he still had finish on the ball, and he said, he would let me know."
Chen was protecting a one-run lead with one out in the eighth inning, before Wilmer Difo's home run tied the game. And in the ninth inning, Mark Reynolds connected on a leadoff home run off Brad Ziegler. Pinch-hitter Matt Adams and Trea Turner each added RBI singles.
"Really bad 3-1 pitch," Ziegler said. "That was kind of the story on my whole outing. Every three or four pitches, my command would just kind of leave me for a pitch or two. I made a lot of really good pitches down, but it seemed like every time I left a pitch up, they didn't miss a mistake."
For Chen, the start was his longest as a Marlin. It also was the deepest he's gone in a start since also working 7 1/3 innings while with the Orioles on Aug. 10, 2015, against the Mariners.
"Mentally, I'm trying to attack hitters in different locations," Chen said. "It's been a long time since I've pitched into the eighth inning. I tried not to overthink about it. I tried to attack the hitters. If you can do that, and focus on your pitches, the results will come."
Of his 94 pitches, Chen threw 60 four-seam fastballs, and 18 sliders. He induced 12 swinging strikes.
"Chen was carving us up all day," Reynolds said. "It was frustrating at-bats. All it takes sometimes is one swing to get a little energy in the club and Difo did that for us today; huge homer."
Matched against Tanner Roark, who has allowed two or fewer runs in his last seven starts against the Marlins, Miami need a strong performance from Chen. The lefty did his part, keeping the Nationals off the board until Difo turned on a 2-2 pitch in the eighth inning.
At that point, Chen was lifted after 94 pitches, scattering three hits while striking out six, including Bryce Harper three times.
The Marlins struck first off Roark in the fourth inning on Brian Anderson's RBI single, which scored Realmuto, who doubled.
The Marlins had chances to break through, stranding runners in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
"Chen's been good," Mattingly said. "He's been more aggressive. He goes deep into that game. That's encouraging about him. Obviously, discouraging because we were not able to finish the game off for him."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After the Nationals tied it at 1 in the eighth, the Marlins had a chance to regain the lead in the bottom of the inning. Cameron Maybin singled to open the inning, and with one out, Realmuto's second double of the game put runners on second and third. Washington lefty Tim Collins got Justin Bour to bounce to first, and Reynolds threw Maybin out trying to score. Justin Miller replaced Collins, and struck out Starlin Castro to end the threat.
Anderson recorded his 14th multi-hit game, which is second on team to Castro's 15.
HE SAID IT
"I think we have to be concerned to some degree. He still throws the ball on the ground a lot, but more and more balls are getting through, it seems like. Obviously, the Atlanta game and this game." -- Mattingly, on Ziegler, who allowed three runs in the ninth inning and last Sunday was charged with four runs in two-thirds of an inning
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
A key replay moment came in the fourth inning. The Marlins had just gone ahead, 1-0, and had runners on the corners with one out when Miguel Rojas bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. The Marlins challenged that Rojas was safe at first, and on replay, it appeared very close. But the ruling was that the call stands. The Marlins felt replay showed Rojas was safe.
"Obviously, it's close. It's bang-bang. It didn't go our way," Mattingly said.
Pitching on the big league stage has not fazed Marlins rookie Elieser Hernandez, the 23-year-old who has a 2.08 ERA in four big league appearances with two starts. Hernandez gets the nod in the series finale with the Nationals at 1:10 p.m. ET on Sunday at Marlins Park. He goes against an established veteran in Stephen Strasburg.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.