The first week and a half of July has not been too kind to the Baltimore Orioles.
The O’s were 2-6 in their first eight July games, after collecting one win in each of their three-game road series against the Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. Back at Camden Yards they continued to struggle, losing the first two games of a four-game series against the Texas Rangers.
But the Orioles did get some good news on Monday. Wei-Yin Chen would be returning to the big league club after two rehab starts in double-A Bowie. In those starts, Chen was 1-0 with 12 innings pitched, four earned runs and eight strikeouts, while holding batters to a .214 average.
On Tuesday night, Chen made his first appearance for the O’s since May 12, when he strained an oblique.
His impact was immediate.
Baltimore rallied behind Chen’s stellar outing, which lasted seven solid innings, and a three-run home run by Nolan Reimold.
Through five innings, Chen had allowed just one hit; it was in the sixth that he ran into a little bit of trouble. Ian Kinsler drew a leadoff walk and with one out, Nelson Cruz singled to left field. After a fielder’s choice on Adrian Beltre which allowed Kinsler to score, Chen gave up a double to A.J. Pierzynski. With two runners in scoring position, Chen induced a ground ball by Elvis Andrus to end the inning.
Chen retired four straight between the sixth and seventh innings, and his night was done. He allowed one run on three hits, while striking out four and walking three batters.
In his rookie season last year, the 27-year-old Chen was the only Orioles starter to make 21+ starts. He finished 2012 with a 12-11 record and 4.02 ERA — the only Oriole starter to record double-digit wins.
In nine starts this season, Chen is 4-3 with a 2.82 ERA, which would be a team low among Baltimore starters, though three members of the staff have 15 or more starts.
The return of Chen will hopefully help the Orioles stabilize a starting rotation that has used 13 different starters already this season. On July 2 the Orioles reached outside the organization by acquiring Scott Feldman to strengthen their rotation.
Prior to Tuesday night’s game, the team ranked 28th in the majors in team ERA. Opponents were batting .261 off Orioles pitching which ties Baltimore with Philadelphia as the 6th-highest in the MLB. They’ve also allowed 119 home runs — the most in the majors.
With the All-Star break looming this coming Monday, the Orioles trailed the Tampa Bay Rays by two games in the AL wild card race. The Boston Red Sox have a 5.5 game lead on the Orioles and will be the first visitors to Camden Yards after the All-Star Game.
The series against the Rangers concludes tomorrow with a 7 p.m. start. Miguel Gonzalez (6-3, 3.63 ERA) will get the start against a pitcher to be announced for Texas. Once the Rangers leave town, the O’s will play host to the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend prior to the All-Star break.