KANSAS CITY - Wei-Yin Chen’s postseason career with the Orioles has been a mixed bag. One earned run allowed in 6 1/3 innings in an American League Division Series start against the Yankees in 2012. Five earned runs in 3 2/3 innings in an ALDS start against the Tigers in 2014.
He’s got to be good on Monday. The Orioles are depending heavily on him after losing the first two games of the American League Championship Series at home to the Royals.
“Oh, man, he’s been one of our best arms all year,” said catcher Nick Hundley. “He won 16 games. Been throwing the ball great. One of the better left-handers in the game, so we like where we’re at.”
Chen isn’t letting the size of the stage and the intensity of the spotlight rattle him.
“For me, I want to keep it simple,” he said through his interpreter. “It doesn’t matter to me if we’re ahead or behind. For me, my job is to go out and pitch a good game. It doesn’t change whether it’s 0‑2 or 2‑0. I just want to go out and pitch a good game.”
Chen has allowed four earned runs in 12 2/3 innings over two starts at Kauffman Stadium. It may at least partially explain why he’s starting Game 3.
“For me, I don’t know particularly what’s different in this ballpark,” he said. “For me, my focus is the hitter, so I just want to try to get hitters out. I’m thinking about hitters.
“During the past two times I had good performances here, but this time I can’t guarantee that I will have the same performance, but I’ll try to mentally and physically be the same.”
Chen struggled against the Tigers lineup that feasts on left-handed pitching. It wasn’t a desirable matchup.
“Well, apparently the Tigers have a lot of great right‑handers, so they hit left-handed pitchers real well. But this time, of course, Kansas City has some left hitters in the lineup, but it doesn’t guarantee I’ll have a good performance out there,” Chen said.
“I still have to concentrate. And they have great speed, so I hope I can do well. It helps me to go through the lineup.
“For me, the last two games they faced right‑handed pitchers and I’m a lefty, so I hope that will give them something different to deal with. So, I hope I can do better this time.
“Even if we’re 2‑0 and ahead, it doesn’t mean I can be relaxed and go out and pitch. Still I try to stay the same for every game, because a game is a game. You have to stay the same mentally and physically.”
Chen may have a long wait before taking the mound, with the forecast calling for heavy rain all day and night.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We had a really good forecast in Baltimore for a while. Our grounds crew, like theirs, did a great job.
“I think your first thought is about the fans. I know it’s a big day for our fans in Baltimore and I’m sure it is here the same, so that’s my first concern. We’ll see what it brings. One hundred percent. If it says 80 percent, then 80 percent of the area gets 100 percent chance of rain. If it says 100 that doesn’t look too good. It will change, I hope.”
Showalter got on a weather roll.
“We don’t have the Chesapeake Bay here, we have the Missouri River,” he said. “I tell you one thing, Kansas City has the best rainstorms I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen the dugout fill up here in about three minutes. The most unbelievable lightning storms I’ve ever seen. Right? You all know what I’ve seen. Tornadoes. But you asked me about the weather concern. Just means we’ll probably lose the off-day. Right now, we’re more concerned about getting there.
“When they tell us to play, we play. That’s what we do. Hope it’s not one of those 11 o’clock specials. We’ve got the 7 o’clock, a better starting time. We don’t have to spend the night at the ballpark.”
Does a workout day with no game come at an opportune time for the Orioles after losing two straight at home?
“I think anytime guys play two games like we played, I don’t think it affects you,” Showalter said. “This time of year things don’t get too ... next starting pitcher, the next. I don’t think it’s good or bad. I know that if we didn’t have the media things we needed to do, I don’t know if we would have worked out today, but we’re here. It doesn’t hurt, because we may get rained out tomorrow.
“They have great facilities here. This is important what we’re doing here now. It helps our game. People like to, unbelievably, listen to it. Not me, but the players, hopefully. I don’t see it one way or another.”
Showalter mentioned after Game 2 that the outcomes are due mostly to what the Royals have done, not the failings of his club.
“I think you’ve seen, obviously, how razor thin the margin of error is,” Showalter said. “You stay true to that and realize that it’s such a momentum game. When the agent says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. When somebody says it’s not about the pitching, it’s the pitching.
“They’ve done a good job. We’ve done some good things, too, to keep us engaged. None of the four starting pitchers have been out there in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning. Makes you realize what a grind it is. Every out is a grind. Same thing with us. Pitch count gets up and the margin of error is less. But there’s not a lot of this means that and that means this, that happened so maybe this is going to happen. Guys don’t get into that mentality too much.
“You never assume anything, that something bad is going to happen or something good is going to happen. Just go out there and let your curiosity be satisfied. We have good people and I trust them.”
Nothing really has changed about the Royals since Showalter saw them back in May.
“You play them, you realize their potential,” he said. “They had great leadership with Ned (Yost) and some of the players, and they have a lot in common. And you knew it was going to really get going. You just hoped it wasn’t while you were there. And confidence and trust. Ability plays this time of year.
“You talk all the time about the stuff guys really play well in the postseason, the finesse guys, but there’s so many ebbs and turns to the season, and I think they have really played to their potential. And we all in baseball knew what it was. And Ned and the players should be, of course the front office, should be commended for sticking with it and trusting their guys, too. Ability plays.”
Showalter said he took into account Chen’s success at Kauffman Stadium while lining up his starters for the ALCS.
“You look at all those things,” he said. “It’s more or less tiebreakers. You don’t become a prisoner to it. If you had four guys and none of them pitched well here, what would you do? Just forfeit? It’s just the same thing Ned and everybody does.
Showalter claimed that he wasn’t aware of Jarrod Dyson’s comments last night and he offered no real opinion.
“I hadn’t read anything,” he said.
The reporter relaying the quote only shared the first part, where Dyson said he didn’t expect to return to Baltimore.
“Why wouldn’t he feel that way?” Showalter said. “If I played the way they played the last couple of games, I might feel the same way.”
Miguel Gonzalez will oppose left-hander Jason Vargas in Game 4, which may be pushed back to Wednesday if Game 3 is postponed. He hasn’t pitched since the final regular season game in Toronto, but he’s found ways to stay sharp.
“I threw a sim game on Monday,” he said. “I’ll be throwing a bullpen today. I threw a couple bullpens before that, so I’m pretty much ready to go. I’ve been in this situation before so I’ve just got to be ready to go.
“I’m anxious. I can’t wait. I know I’m getting my opportunity now, so I’ve just got to do the best I can.”
The change in venue leaves Gonzalez with more margin for error in a bigger ballpark.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Gonzalez said. “We can’t determine that. But definitely we’re going to have to just go out there and try to do our best.”
The Orioles have no choice. Anything less and this series won’t go back to Baltimore.
“It’s tough, but we’ve got to understand that’s a good ballclub, as well, so we’ve just got to keep grinding and try to do our best,” Gonzalez said.
No team has lost the first two games at home and rallied to win a League Championship Series.
“I’ll tell you what, we’re a team that’s going to grind it out,” Gonzalez said. “They’ve got to win some more to beat us. That’s how we see it. We’re going to go out there and try to do our best.
“This is a team that’s not going to let down that easy. We’re going to keep grinding and keep doing our best. We’re excited to be here and hopefully we can take two out of three.
“They got a little bit of luck, a couple hits they got which were key hits for them, I thought. That was the only difference. Anything else, we wouldn’t change anything.”
There’s a sense of calm in the clubhouse that belies the results of the first two games.
“We’re focused on the Baltimore Orioles, focused on playing good games, being fundamental, do what we do best,” Hundley said. “All the outside interference and all that stuff doesn’t permeate this clubhouse.
“You look at it, they got it done and we didn’t. You can go back and second-guess yourself and look at balls that fell in and all that other stuff, but the bottom line is we’re down 2-0, so all that stuff doesn’t matter. What matters is us going out and trying to win Game 3.”