"He was outstanding," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He was sharp with his breaking ball, [on] the extra days' rest. It seems like he had a little bit more finish on his fastball. He was a difference-maker for us today, and it won't be forgotten."
Chen went a career-high 7 2/3 innings in a 98-pitch outing that gave the Orioles' bullpen a much-needed breather in the first game of a single-admission doubleheader. Asked if his staying power was the thing he was most proud of, Chen -- speaking through his interpreter -- said, "definitely."
"We don't have a doubleheader in Japan," he said. "So this is my first experience, and after seven innings I just wanted to keep pitching. I told the pitching coach [Rick Adair] I still want to go back to the mound and I still want to help the team, and definitely I did it."
Chen, who exited to a nice standing ovation from a small crowd at Camden Yards, turned in the Orioles' longest outing in six games for his third quality start in four games. Signed to a three-year deal out of Japan this winter, Chen has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his first six starts and improved to 3-0 with a 2.68 ERA.
"We're still learning about him," Showalter said, when asked if that was the best he's seen Chen this season. "Considering the competition and the need, it certainly seemed pretty crisp for us."
The Orioles' offense wasted no time, connecting for three homers in Rangers starter Colby Lewis' first eight pitches. The trio of blasts started with Ryan Flaherty's first career home run, and he was followed by J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis to mark the first time in American League history -- fourth time in all of baseball -- that there have been three homers to open a team's first inning.
The history wouldn't stop there as Lewis turned in one of the most bizarre outings in recent memory. He followed Markakis' homer by retiring 18 in a row -- 12 via strikeout -- before Adam Jones homered in the bottom of the seventh. Wilson Betemit followed later with a two-run blast, and Lewis became the first Major League pitcher since 1918 (which is when play-by-play stats were first recorded) to give up five or more home runs and pick up 10 or more strikeouts in a game of at least seven innings.
"I've known Colby for a long time; I knew it was only a matter of time before he settled in," Showalter said. "We were fortunate to take advantage of it early. We didn't mount much after that. Sometimes you get that with the first game of a doubleheader. Our guys put some good swings on some mistakes. We've done a few things this year -- [those three home runs were a first for me] -- but I thought the tack-on runs after the home runs were even bigger."
The Orioles' home run barrage helped Chen cruise, as he pitched out of a bases-loaded one-out scenario in the third, retiring Hamilton to leave the bases juiced. Chen allowed a two-out RBI in the fourth inning, and the Rangers scratched another run across in the eighth that scored after Chen had exited.
"I don't know if he has late movement with it or hides it well," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of Chen, "but he did a good job with his fastball."
Chen picked up two quick outs to start the eighth inning, but a pair of singles from Elvis Andrus and Hamilton prompted Showalter to call reliever Luis Ayala, who allowed Adrian Beltre's RBI single before getting an inning-ending strikeout of Michael Young.
Ayala allowed a double and a single to start the ninth, and Showalter inserted closer Jim Johnson, who gave up a three-run homer to pinch-hitter David Murphy but rebounded to pick up his ninth save.