By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO
(AP) — Wei-Yin Chen hasn’t lost in over six weeks, and his latest performance was his best of the season.
Chen looks to extend his personal winning streak and help the Baltimore Orioles to their longest run against the Tampa Bay Rays in seven years Monday night.
Chen (7-2, 3.76 ERA) has already matched his win total from last season, thanks largely to going 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA in seven starts since a 6-1 loss at Minnesota on May 3.
The left-hander was masterful Wednesday, retiring the first 11 batters – six by strikeout – before yielding four hits, fanning another batter and leaving after the seventh in a 6-0 win over Boston.
“There is not much difference between this outing and the previous outings but I think if I had to say one, it’s my command,” Chen said through a translator. “My command on my breaking balls. I was able to locate them in the strike zone or out of the strike zone. That’s the main difference.”
He hasn’t had much trouble with his commend over his last seven starts against the Rays (27-43), compiling a 2.03 ERA and a 3-1 record. He yielded one run over 6 1-3 innings in a 7-1 victory over Tampa Bay on April 14.
That was the first of the Orioles’ five straight wins over Tampa Bay this season after dropping 11 of the previous 13. They haven’t put together a longer winning streak over the AL East rival since taking eight in a row in 2007.
Baltimore (35-33) is 4-3 on this 13-game stretch against division foes. After this three-game series at Tropicana Field, the Orioles visit New York for three games this weekend.
They settled for a split of a four-game set with East-leading Toronto, falling 5-2 Sunday.
“It was a good series,” said Chris Tillman, Sunday’s pitcher of record. “We would have liked to have liked to come out on top, but we split against the team that’s leading the league. Just come back better next time.”
Some improvement at the plate would surely help. Baltimore is batting .200 with runners in scoring position in seven games, going 4 for 23 (.174) while dropping two of the past three.
Chris Davis should be back in the lineup after getting Sunday off, but the slugging first baseman is batting .164 with four homers, eight RBIs and 31 strikeouts over his last 19 games.
Visiting Tropicana may not help since he’s 3 for 29 with one homer, two RBIs and 13 strikeouts in seven games there.
The major league-worst Rays (27-43) enter this 10-game homestand after winning three of four following a 1-14 skid.
David Price struck out 10 over eight innings and Yunel Escobar drove in two runs Sunday in a 4-3 win at Houston.
Jake Odorizzi (2-7, 4.85) starts for Tampa Bay seeking his first win since May 14.
The right-hander is 0-4 with a 4.78 ERA over his last five starts, but he’s been backed by six total runs and none in three of those outings.
Odorizzi had one of his sharpest outings of the season Tuesday, allowing one run and three hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 1-0 loss to St. Louis.
He said being more aggressive in the strike zone was a big reason for the longest outing of his career.
“Just kind of an eye-opening situation,” Odorizzi told the team’s official website. “Why didn’t I do this my previous outings? It was a good building point.”
He allowed three runs in five innings of a 3-0 loss at Baltimore on April 16.
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