BALTIMORE — Wei-Yin Chen didn’t come to the Orioles with the reputation of being a strikeout pitcher, but after Sunday afternoon’s record-breaking performance, perhaps that may begin to change.
The 27-year-old lefty from Taiwan has often deflected attention during his rookie season, repeatedly saying through his interpreter he’s more concerned with team wins than individual stats.
In the top of the sixth inning of the Orioles’ 6-1 win over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, the announced crowd of 19,698 at Camden Yards was giving Chen a standing ovation after he fanned Josh Reddick for his 12th strikeout of the game.
Behind him, the stadium’s video board told fans that Chen had set a new major league record for strikeouts in a game by a Taiwanese-born pitcher. On the mound, Chen had no clue the cheers were for him.
“I [had] no idea,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “After I walked to the dugout, a teammate told me that’s my record. I [had] no idea. When the fans [stood] up and [gave] me a standing ovation, I totally had no idea about that.”
Chen — who broke Chien-Ming Wang’s mark of 10 strikeouts set June 17, 2007 with the New York Yankees — also tallied the most strikeouts by an Orioles pitcher in five years, since Erik Bedard tied a franchise record with 15 strikeouts on July 7, 2007.
“When you talk about the history of baseball, it always gets my attention,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “[Chen] has been a pleasure to be around, and I like to see good things happen to people who go about their business the way he does. I don’t for a second not take in what it means to the people of Taiwan. I’m sure they’re very proud of Wei-Yin, probably as much as we are.”
Needing a win Sunday afternoon to avoid a sweep at the hands of the red-hot A’s — and with a six-game road trip to New York and Tampa Bay looming — the O’s got a clutch performance from the pitcher they signed in the offseason after four years pitching in Japan.
Chen (9-6) allowed just one unearned run in the sixth, yielding just three hits over 52 / 3 innings and falling one out shy of his 10th quality start in 21 outings. He battled against an Oakland lineup that worked counts and fouled off pitches, raising Chen’s pitch count. Still, he became the first pitcher in Orioles history to strike out 10 or more batters in less than six innings.
He was aggressive in attacking the strike zone with his low-90s fastball — nearly 70 percent of his 108 pitches were strikes and 11 of his 12 strikeouts came on four-seam fastballs.
The Orioles scored three or fewer runs in nine of Chen’s past 13 starts, but they gave him a 5-0 lead Sunday.
The O’s (53-49) were fueled by a four-run third inning that was highlighted by Matt Wieters’s three-run homer off Oakland starter Travis Blackley.
Wieters’s home run came one batter after Adam Jones’s double plated J.J. Hardy and placed runners at second and third.