Taiwanese pitcher Chen Wei-yin (陳偉殷) baffled New York’s powerful batters on Monday, sparking the Baltimore Orioles over the Yankees 3-2 to level their Major League Baseball playoff series.
Deadlocked 1-1 in the best-of-five American League Division Series, the Orioles and Yankees move to New York for today and tomorrow, and a fifth if necessary on Friday.
Either the Yankees or the Orioles will advance to face Detroit or Oakland in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series to decide a berth in the World Series final.
Chen, who joined the Orioles this year after seven seasons in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons, won his North American playoff debut by outdueling New York’s Andy Pettitte, the pitcher with the most wins in Major League Baseball playoff history.
The 27-year-old left-hander surrendered two runs on eight hits and a walk, while striking out three Yankee batters in 6-1/3 innings.
The Taiwanese ace tossed 77 of his 112 pitches for strikes and staked Baltimore a 3-2 lead after seven innings, a crucial accomplishment since the Orioles went 74-0 in the regular season when leading after seven innings.
“As long as I can help my team win, it means the same for me whether I win during the regular season or the post-season,” Chen said through a translator. “Today, I just tried to keep the ball low and let the fielders take care of the rest ... [the victory] was not just a result of my own work, other teammates helped too. It’s our teamwork, and I felt we just would win today.”
The Orioles, who had not won a playoff game since 1997, went 29-9 in one-run decisions this season and showed poise under pressure in beating the Yankees, who edged them in the season’s last two days for the American League Eastern Division crown.
“It has been an impressive situation,” Baltimore outfielder Chris Davis said. “It has taught us how to deal with the highs and the lows, to not get too down in the lows and ride out the highs. You definitely don’t want to go into New York down two games.”
Orioles closing relief pitcher Jim Johnson, who lead the major leagues with 51 saves this season, had been tagged by the Yankees for five runs a night earlier in a 7-2 New York triumph to open the series.
This time, Johnson shut down the top of the Yankee batting order to complete the victory, inducing infield groundouts from Derek Jeter and Japanese star Ichiro Suzuki, while striking out Alex Rodriguez.
New York starter Pettitte, a 40-year-old southpaw seeking his 20th playoff triumph in his 40th post-season start for the Yankees, allowed three runs on seven hits and a walk, while striking out five over seven innings.
New York took the lead in the first inning when Suzuki reached first on a fielding error by Baltimore’s Mark Reynolds and raced home on a double to right-field by Robinson Cano.
Baltimore answered in the third when a bases-loaded single by Davis drove in two runs and gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the fourth inning, but Chen induced a pop flyout and a groundout to end the threat.
The Orioles stretched their edge to 3-1 in the sixth when Matt Wieters snapped an 0-for-10 playoff hit drought with a leadoff double and scored on a Reynolds single to right-field.
The Yankees responded in the seventh when Eduardo Nunez led off with a double and scored on a Jeter single to left-field, but New York stranded two base runners in scoring position in the inning and still trailed 3-2.
Additional reporting by staff writer, with CNA