MINNEAPOLIS – The Orioles may have to face life without Wei-Yin Chen. The Taiwanese left-hander was having a great Sunday, cruising through five innings with a six-run lead. Then, suddenly Tommy Hunter started warming up in the bullpen, and it was apparent something was wrong.
Chen left the Orioles’ 6-0 win over the Minnesota Twins before 34,320 at Target Field with a strained right oblique muscle.
He gave up five singles and walked none in five innings. Chen struck out five and had thrown 73 pitches and seemed to be on his way to a deep start.
Manager Buck Showalter and Chen both tried to downplay the injury, saying they thought—or at least hoped—it was a cramp.
“I have no idea but I can tell in the fifth inning, the last batter, [Eduardo] Escobar, after two strikes I was just [having] a weird feeling and I just tried to be strong and finish out that inning. And the last pitch, I finished the delivery and started feeling ‘maybe that’s a cramp on me. I don’t know we’ll see what happens tomorrow, I hope it’s just a cramp,” Chen said through his translator.
After the game, the Twins said they heard Chen scream on the last pitch.
Chen said that he’s never had an injury like this and doesn’t expect it to force him to go on the disabled list.
“I don’t think that happens. It’s not that serious to me,” Chen said.
The Orioles have a number of options if they have to replace Chen (3-3) for an extended time. With Miguel Gonzalez on the disabled list with a blister on his right thumb, the Orioles may need two starters even though they have two off days this week.
Zach Britton and Steve Johnson, who have pitched for the Orioles this year, are at Norfolk. So is Jair Jurrjens who hasn’t pitched with the Orioles yet. Last year’s No. 1 draft choice, Kevin Gausman is at Bowie.
Jake Arrieta won’t be replacing Chen. He was supposed to start Sunday’s game for Norfolk, but is suffering from a strained right shoulder.
“It’s something they have some concern with, but it’s nothing right now that they’re overly concerned with at this point, but it’s not normal,” Showalter said.
“Regardless of what happens, we feel like we have some people below who are capable of helping us. I hope we don't have to do that. I'm going to think good things,”
Chen’s injury took a lot of the joy away from a successful weekend in Minneapolis. The Orioles (23-15) took two of three from the Twins (17-17). Manny Machado had three hits in each of the three games.
“I think it’s just evidence of how hard he’s been working. The guys around him are swinging the bats well and that’s one as a young hitter, you want some older guys around you who are going to protect you a little bit. He’s not missing his pitch when he’s getting it that’s for sure,” Chris Davis said.
In the first, The Orioles wasted no time against Scott Diamond (3-3). Nick Markakis led off with a single, and he scored on a two-out home run to center by Davis. Davis’ home run was estimated at 442 feet. It was his 11th of the season.
“It was a very clean game. We have been swinging the bats well the last few days. Feels good to win the game by a pretty big margin,” Davis said. The six-run margin was the second largest of the season.
In the second, J.J. Hardy singled with one out. He moved to second on Alexi Casilla’s infield out and scored on Chris Snyder’s single. Snyder was thrown out trying to score on Markakis’ double.
Adam Jones led off the third with his fifth home run of the year. It hit a railing in left field and bounced up and landed in the stands.
Davis’ infield out scored Markakis in the fifth, and Pearce’s home run in the sixth, his second, gave the Orioles a 6-0 lead.
Diamond was removed after he walked Snyder with two outs in the sixth.
Hunter threw a scoreless sixth. Darren O’Day pitched 1 1/3 innings. Brian Matusz retired the two batters he faced in the eighth. Pedro Strop retired the three batters he faced in the ninth.
Machado is batting.406 in his last 19 games.
“I’m not even paying much attention to it. I don’t look up there and see what I’m hitting. I’m just going up there and trying to help this team win whatever way. Just trying to hit the ball and catch the outs,” Machado said.
NOTES: The Orioles are off on Monday. They begin a two-game series with San Diego on Tuesday. Chris Tillman (3-1, 3.76) faces Andrew Cashner (2-2, 3.23).
-Hunter now has 15 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings.