ATLANTA — This has been Baltimore rookie Wei-Yin Chen’s first foray into interleague play, where American League pitchers are forced to bat in National League parks, but the Taiwanese left-hander has already seen enough to know he’s not a fan.
“Not really, because I hate hitting,” Chen said through an interpreter.
But Chen and the Orioles left Turner Field on Sunday afternoon able to boast that they beat the Braves at their own game — excelling in an NL style of baseball that leans on manufactured runs, solid pitching and technique-minded defense — for a 2-0 series-clinching win over Atlanta.
“Hopefully it’s the mark of a club that can do some different things,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said.
In just his 14th major league start, the 26-year-old Chen delivered his finest outing in a Baltimore uniform, pitching seven scoreless innings and allowing just six hits. It was his first scoreless outing in the big leagues.
The win was the Orioles’ seventh in their past eight. They are now 9-3 in interleague play and have won all four series against National League teams this season. Baltimore kept pace with the New York Yankees, winners of nine straight, and remained 11 / 2 games out of first in the AL East.
After dropping a disappointing series opener Friday, the Orioles haven’t allowed a run in their past 20 innings. Jason Hammel threw a one-hit shutout Saturday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh. Chen followed Sunday with his own gem.
“The important part of it is that they all started with strike one,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “They’ve put the hitters in 0-1 counts and have been able to do what they want because they’re ahead.”
Baltimore (39-27) managed just four hits but was able to manufacture runs off a pair of inning-opening extra-base hits.
Jones doubled to lead off the second, moved to third on Wilson Betemit’s flyout to right and scored on Mark Reynolds’s sacrifice fly to right to put the Orioles up 1-0.
Braves starter Randall Delgado retired 12 straight until Steve Pearce’s liner sailed over Matt Diaz’s head in left for a double to lead off the sixth.
Chen — a career .080 hitter in four years in Japan — then executed a sacrifice bunt to move Pearce to third, and Pearce scored when Delgado was called for a balk by home plate umpire D.J. Reyburn.
Chen allowed base runners in six of his seven innings but was aided by inning-ending double plays in the first, second and third innings, facing just four batters over the minimum for the game.
The biggest play might have come in the third inning. Chen yielded back-to-back singles by David Ross and Andrelton Simmons to open the inning. When Delgado dropped a bunt to the third-base side of the mound, Chen rushed over and threw to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was covering third, to get the lead runner. Hardy then quickly threw across the diamond to first to complete a double play.
As much as Showalter was impressed with Chen for keeping Braves hitters off balance by mixing his fastball and change-up, and learning a developing curveball and slider, the manager pointed out the rookie’s ability to do the often-unnoticed things — such as the bunt double-play ball and moving a runner over on his own bunt.
“He handled not only the pitching part of it, but executing something you work on in spring training,” Showalter said. “Sometimes it’s the difference-maker in the game. I think it might have been today, and he got a big bunt down for us to set up another run.”
The bunt double play evoked memories of the first days of spring training in Sarasota, Fla., when the Orioles practiced bunt defense drills ad nauseam just for a day like Sunday.
“That’s where it comes in handy,” Hardy said. “We don’t run that play very often. It takes a pretty close game to run that play.”
Added Showalter: “I’m sure they were rolling their eyes at us in spring training, going over and over again bunt defense with an American League East team. It’s nice that it could help us make a difference.”
Chen’s third straight winning decision improved his record to 7-2 and gave Baltimore two seven-game winners this early in the season for the first time since 1999, when Mike Mussina and Sidney Ponson each had won seven by June 17.
Four Orioles relievers closed out the final two innings, including three — Darren O’Day, Troy Patton and Pedro Strop — in the eighth.
Jim Johnson threw a perfect ninth for his 20th save in 21 opportunities this season.
It was also the Orioles’ fourth straight series win overall. Since last Sept. 12, Baltimore is 18-7-2 in its past 27 series with an overall record of 50-33.
— Baltimore Sun