That’s also the result of pitching with a solid defense behind him, one that kept making plays and frustrating the Tampa Bay hitters.
“I thought balls went right at some fielders,” said manager Buck Showalter following a 7-1 victory over the Rays at Camden Yards. “We played real good defense. I didn’t think he was particularly ... I thought they centered a lot of balls off him. We were fortunate tonight. Real good defense. Three double plays. Two behind him. They hit a lot of balls hard. Fortunately, we had people where they hit them.
“The baseball gods were kind to him tonight after not being kind to him early on.”
It started with Ryan Flaherty robbing leadoff hitter Ben Zobrist of an extra-base hit.
“First play of the game,” Showalter said. “For me, Ryan Flaherty had four hits tonight. He had two hits and he took two ... he took a double away. That’s 180 feet. That’s how I look at defenders. You can go 0-for-4 and in my mind really have three hits, because you kept three balls from being base hits.
“Those types of things in the first inning, they centered up three pretty good balls, but we caught them. They hit a lot of balls hard tonight that we caught.”
The defense set the tone, and it included Chen, who ran down a dribbler down the third base line, spun and got the out at first base.
“Great play,” Showalter said. “One of the few pitchers in the league who would make that play, especially left-handed. It’s something our guys take a lot of pride in.
“David (Lough) made a couple good plays, Lombo (Steve Lombardozzi) has been solid. It was a good defensive game for us. We needed it, because they hit some balls pretty firm.”
Rays starter Chris Archer allowed two runs over 13 innings before tonight. He was charged with seven runs and 12 hits in five innings.
“I thought we were pretty selective, got some counts, and then whatever mistakes he’s going to make ...,” Showalter said. “He’s a good pitcher. Their pitching kind of got stretched out a little bit yesterday, so they’ll be back full force tomorrow. They got the rest they needed. Timing means everything. I wouldn’t expect to be that fortunate off Archer many times.”
Matt Wieters had three more hits, all from the left side. He’s 12-for-30 against right-handers this season.
“When I first got here, everybody was questioning whether he’d be able to hit right-handed. And then he has a year last year where it kind of swayed the other way. And it might be the other way this year. It’s just one of those things,” Showalter said.
“He spends a lot of time working on his weaknesses, unlike a lot of players who are really good at what they do. They want to spend a lot of time on their strengths. He views something that other people view as not a strength of his, he’s going to work on it. He comes into camp and had two or three things he wants to get better at defensively. He’s a guy who could have and should have however many Gold Gloves. That’s why you like him.
“All our guys, when they come to camp they want to work on their deficiencies.”