Chen's stellar start puts O's alone in first place

Chen's stellar start puts O's alone in first place

Chen's stellar start puts O's alone in first place
BOSTON -- The Orioles, in a stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons, have grown accustomed to Red Sox and Yankee fans overtaking Camden Yards, both in crowd support and record, as Baltimore has historically struggled against two of baseball's behemoths, even in the comfort of its own park.

This year's club is proving -- one win at a time -- that things are different, and in the process, the Orioles are making themselves cozy at Fenway Park. Buoyed by a solid seven innings from starter Wei-Yin Chen, Baltimore edged Boston, 2-1, for a series victory that sets a modern-day franchise record with its seventh consecutive win at the historic ballpark.

Predicted by many to take their familiar spot in the American League East cellar, the Orioles improved to 32-24 with Wednesday's win, reclaiming sole possession of the division from the Rays, who lost to the Yankees.

"Everybody is doing a little part for the team," said left fielder Endy Chavez, who delivered the decisive sixth-inning RBI to secure the Orioles' first road season series win vs. Boston since 2005.

"We are playing pretty good even though we have a lot of injuries. What can I say? We are playing good, we are focused, we are fighting and all together -- and that's very important."

But it took more than camaraderie to keep Boston's bats at bay, and Chen put on a dazzling display over seven innings in holding the Red Sox to one run or fewer at home for just the second time this season.

"It was unbelievable the way he came and performed with only four days off," reliever Pedro Strop said of Chen, who the Orioles have tried to keep on five days' rest as much as possible to mimic his schedule in Japan. "He was good. It was huge for the team."

Chen cruised all night, allowing only a third-inning run on Mike Aviles' sacrifice fly, and made quick work of Boston's batters to help the Orioles secure their first series win since May 18-20 at Washington. The 26-year-old looked poised and in control in his second career start at Fenway Park, retiring six of the first seven batters to set the tone and give Baltimore's offense a chance to work.

"You could see early on [Red Sox starter Josh] Beckett was carrying good stuff," manager Buck Showalter said, "and the only way you can compete in a game like that is to match him. Chen pitched as well if not better. That's the difference."

Chen, who has been a pleasant surprise in his first Major League season, held the Red Sox to seven hits and notched four strikeouts in his fifth victory.

Coming off a rough start against Tampa Bay that included four walks and a five-run first inning, Chen's command was on from the get-go Wednesday night, and he didn't issue a walk in the 100-pitch outing. A pleasant surprise for the Orioles, who signed him to a three-year deal this winter, Chen held the Red Sox to a run on seven hits and picked up fourth strikeouts for his first win since May 15.

"Their pitching is great. I'm not going to lie to you," Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said as he watched Chen hold an opponent to one run for the fourth time this season.

"He is a new guy in the league and he's got good stuff, he's throwing the ball good and it's taking a minute to figure guys like that out."

"He's a rookie in this league, but he isn't scared," said second baseman Robert Andino. "[Chen] isn't scared. He's going to pound that zone."

The Red Sox threatened with a pair of singles to start the seventh, but after Darnell McDonald's sacrifice bunt put the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position, Chen held his ground, striking out Marlon Byrd and retiring Aviles on a popup to shallow right field.

"I'm really appreciative that Buck trusted me [to finish in the inning]," Chen said through his interpreter. "That is really important to me."

It was an easy move for Showalter, who is impressed with Chen's poise and demeanor on the mound.

"Whatever the situation is he's not going to get too overwhelmed with it," said catcher Matt Wieters. "He's a guy who every time he goes out there is the model of consistency. He'll go out there and nothing is going to get him too excited."

As good as Chen was, Beckett matched him most of the evening, holding the Orioles to just one hit until the sixth, when the bottom of Baltimore's order provided a big lift for the second consecutive night. The O's took the lead and plated a pair of runs methodically with a trio of singles from Wilson Betemit, Ryan Flaherty and Andino, whose base hit to right field scored Betemit. Speedy leadoff man Chavez reached on a fielder's-choice grounder to score another run.

Beckett did not speak with reporters after the game, but Boston manager Bobby Valentine called the outing eight of the best innings he's seen all year.

"He was efficient with great stuff, all of his pitches," Valentine said of Beckett, who suffered the loss and allowed two runs on five hits.

Strop followed Chen and pitched around a pair of walks in the eighth to keep the lead intact, and closer Jim Johnson fired a perfect ninth for his 18th save.

Asked what the recent dominance at Fenway Park means for the team, Wieters was direct.

"It means we've got a game tomorrow and we'll try to make it eight straight," said Wieters. "You can't worry about those types of numbers. It's something where the media can write the numbers, and it's nice for all the fans, but once you start getting into the numbers you forget about what you are really here to do -- and that's to win ballgames."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.