Chen ends 2-year drought in Orioles' 9-1 rout of Jays

Complete game gives lefty his 1st victory since 2002

September 14, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

TORONTO - Orioles pitcher Bruce Chen doesn't seek revenge against the teams that let him go. Life's too short for such bitterness. And the list of organizations that gave up on him is much too long.

Chen would have to go on an extended tour of the majors, the kind normally associated with rock musicians, to get back at everyone. With only 162 games in a season, and limited inter- league play, there's not enough time.

Making his fourth start last night since Toronto cut him loose, Chen earned his first victory in more than two years by going the distance to defeat the Blue Jays, 9-1, before 18,372 at SkyDome.

The Orioles scored five runs in the first inning and four in the eighth, accounting for a large chunk of the 2 hours, 15 minutes it took to finish off the Blue Jays.

Rafael Palmeiro hit his 18th homer and Jay Gibbons went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. But Chen owned this night, an honor that came from tossing his first complete game in the majors.

Pitching for his ninth organization, Chen hadn't won as a starter since Aug. 29, 2001, with the New York Mets. His last victory came against the Mets on April 21, 2002, while working in relief for the Montreal Expos.

The Mets had traded him earlier that month. Maybe there is something to this revenge angle.

"I know some of the guys with the Blue Jays and I don't hold anything against them," he said. "I just wanted to get my first win in such a long time."

The Expos were five organizations ago. The Blue Jays never brought Chen to the majors, keeping him at Triple-A Syracuse until he ran up an 8.71 ERA in three starts.

The Orioles obtained him in May for future considerations, and he seemed more like an afterthought at Ottawa. But they purchased his contract on Aug. 25, and Chen tossed seven scoreless innings in Oakland that night.

Chen didn't get the decision in that game and didn't match those results in his next two tries. Last night brought back reminders of his debut, and the promise he once showed.

"He pitched like he did in Oakland," manager Lee Mazzilli said. "Fastball, curveball, changeup, mixed his pitches up. They never could look for one particular pitch."

After using nine relievers in Sunday's loss to the New York Yankees at Camden Yards, Mazzilli wanted Chen to go deep into the game. He made it to the end, allowing five hits and walking none.

"The way the bullpen needed a rest," Mazzilli said, "he probably would have pitched 12 innings."

After playing in front of three straight sellout crowds at home, the enthusiasm level turned up to capacity, the Orioles (66-76) had to generate their own energy last night.

Rather than let the atmosphere bring them down, the Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate in the first inning and took a 5-0 lead against Justin Miller. They piled on reliever Kevin Frederick in the eighth, with two runs scoring on Brian Roberts' triple.

Chen (1-0) took a three-hit shutout into the sixth before Vernon Wells' two-out triple scored Orlando Hudson.

"Our guys scored five runs in the first inning and that really helps," Chen said. "It makes you settle down. You know you can just throw the ball. A home run's not going to beat you."

Miller was gone after the first inning, replaced by former Oriole Sean Douglass. He let seven straight batters reach with two outs. He let a game get away from him early.

Melvin Mora began the streak with a double. Miguel Tejada provided the first run with a broken-bat single into left field, and Palmeiro crushed a high fastball for his 546th career homer.

Before the first inning was over, the Orioles had run-scoring singles by Gibbons and Larry Bigbie to increase the lead to 5-0.

The Blue Jays' first hit, by catcher Guillermo Quiroz in the third inning, didn't leave the infield. Tejada tried to backhand the ball in the hole but couldn't make the play cleanly. As if it mattered.

Changing speeds effectively, Chen retired 13 of the first 14 batters. He faced the minimum number through 4 2/3 because a double play eliminated Quiroz.

Once regarded as a top pitching prospect in the Atlanta Braves' system, Chen has started to throw a slider. It was a useful tool last night.

"He's just a different pitcher than he was, and that comes with maturity," Mazzilli said. "He's been around."

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