Escaping first with K sets tone for Chen's rare night

Lefty strikes out career-high-tying 12 for first time since 2012

Escaping first with K sets tone for Chen's rare night

MIAMI -- On most nights, Wei-Yin Chen is perfectly fine pitching to contact. But Wednesday night turned into one of those notable strikeout games for the lefty.

Chen matched his career high with 12 strikeouts in the Marlins' 3-2 win over the Brewers at Marlins Park. In the first inning, when he fanned Chris Carter with runners on the corners to end the threat, it sent a signal that the Brewers would have difficulty simply putting the ball in play.

"Not allowing any runs in that situation actually pumped my confidence a lot," Chen said through his interpreter. "In a couple of previous games, I allowed some runs in the first inning. So to get out of the inning without giving up a run helped me out there."

Chen strikes out 12

Chen opened the game by striking out Domingo Santana with a 92-mph fastball. But after singles by Jonathan Villar and Ryan Braun put runners on the corners, the left-hander was in a bind.

Chen retired Jonathan Lucroy on a flyout to short right field. Villar didn't attempt to tag. And the pitch of the night for Chen ended up being a full-count, 84-mph changeup that got Carter swinging.

"He got into a little bit of a jam in the first inning and was able to settle down and was good after that," said Jeff Mathis, who caught Chen for the first time. "His slider was good. He was putting it where he wanted it. He was getting a lot of swings and misses on that. That was a big pitch for us today."

The first inning hasn't been easy for Chen in his first six starts. He's allowed three runs on six hits in the frame (4.50 ERA).

So starting off unmarked was a relief, and Chen then breezed through 6 1/3 innings, scattering six hits and allowing two runs -- both scoring after he left the game.

It was just the second time Chen has reached double-digits in strikeouts. The other was when he also fanned 12 while with the Orioles against the Athletics on July 29, 2012.

"I always talk about commanding the fastball," Mathis said. "He was able to do that tonight, and you saw what he did."

Chen said the outing was the best of his seven starts with the Marlins.

"My slider was working pretty well, and also Mathis behind the plate, he was helping me a lot, the way he calls the game," Chen said. "The way he asks me where to pitch to. The 12 strikeouts is a lot because of him."

Chen struggled in the seventh inning after striking out Hernan Perez to open the inning. He allowed a single to Alex Presley and walked pinch-hitter Colin Walsh. At 98 pitches, the lefty was replaced by Bryan Morris, who allowed the two inherited runners to score.

"When you walk a guy there and the inning before was a little bit of a battle ... it was just getting to that point," manager Don Mattingly said.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.