Chen might have wanted to block out the fanfare, but there is no denying it now, not after he hurled 61
3 innings of two-run ball, with stellar bullpen support, in a taut 3-2 win that knotted the best-of-five series at a game apiece. The series will shift to Yankee Stadium for games Wednesday, Thursday and perhaps Friday.
Monday’s win marked the Orioles’ 30th victory in 39 one-run games this season, and smiling team owner Peter Angelos congratulated players in the clubhouse afterward.
Chen’s performance came in front of a white-towel-whipping 48,187 spectators who were not yet ready to throw them in after 15 years without playoff baseball in Baltimore, but they might have used them to dry off their seats after the 40-minute rain delay that preceded the game.
Signed by the Orioles in January as a non-drafted free agent, Chen, 26, averted trouble in the first inning and locked in to all but outduel Pettitte. So what if Chen’s postseason experience was limited to four playoff berths with the Chunichi Dragons in Japan.
“I like pitching in the postseason in Japan, but here I’m still rookie and it’s my first time and how can I make it with this kind of pressure and the weather,” Chen said after the game. “The experience of playing in Japan and the States, they are totally a different feeling.”
“I’m real proud of Wei-Yin,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “All year long you think of all the challenges that have been with him since Day One of spring training, and I think his teammates have done a great job of making his path easier and making him feel good.”
Strikes transcend language, and Chen threw 77 of his 112 pitches for strikes in facing the Yankees for the fifth time this season. His outing could have unraveled early. New York’s first two batters of the game, Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki, fell behind Chen with 0-2 counts but each reached base, Jeter on a single to center and Suzuki on an error by first baseman Mark Reynolds.
Orioles second baseman Robert Andino went to the ground to snag a low line drive off the bat of Alex Rodriguez and flipped to shortstop J.J. Hardy to double off Jeter. Robinson Cano smoked a double to the right field corner, and Suzuki twice avoided the tag at home of Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, once before he reached the plate and again when he maneuvered around the catcher and safely touched base for the first run.