Regardless of what Chen's line looks like in the box score tonight, he threw a gem. Masterfully mixing pitches all night, with early emphasis on his fastball, changeup, and slider, leading to an increased use of his slow curve late, only to be removed in favor of Bryan Morris after 6.1 scoreless innings. A reliever who has had a knack for the dramatic in 2016, Morris holds an ERA just north of 3.25, and allowed two of the baserunners Chen relinquished in his final pitches of the night to come around and score on a Jonathan Villar fielder's choice followed later by a Ryan Braun single.
Chen finished with 12 Ks, 6 hits, and 2 walks on 98 pitches. Eight strikeouts came via his slider, two by the way of his fastball, and another two on changeups - a pitch he still sits near the top in baseball with regards to effectiveness. While the Brewer's lineup isn't particularly one to be scared of, as they are top five baseball in strikeouts, Chen's performance cannot be discounted as in the last few games Braun and Villar have given the Brewers a bit of life at the plate.
Ozuna and Bour Lead the Offense, Anderson Strong
I mentioned in this battle's game thread that Chris Towers of CBS Sports did a deeper dive on Marcell Ozuna, wondering if his success has been specifically attributed to anything mechanical. While no direct correlation was found after his talk with Barry Bonds, the Brewers are surely glad to get out of Miami and not have to face the hitter who ravaged them for six hits, two doubles, three runs, and an RBI in the three game matchup. Tonight Ozuna went 1-for-3 with a double, but managed to strikeout twice, the first time he had done that since May 3rd.
Justin Bour on the other hand is coming around from a slow start to the season. With hits in four of his last five games - including a HUGE 2-run big fly in the 5th inning - Bour has also lowered his chase rate and upped his plate discipline in the month of May. Currently sitting on three strikeouts and three walks over six games started for the month, he is poised to improve upon his April, where he finished with 20 strikeouts to 7 walks in 20 games started.
Chase Anderson managed to neutralize the Marlins bats through four innings of work before the Bour homer and Adeiny Hechavarria sacrifice fly. Coming into the game, I had little confidence that the 28 year old righty would be able to net a quality start for just the second time this season, yet he proved me wrong. His success can be found in his ability to pitch efficiently early and find his rhythm, propelling him through six innings, and more importantly an inning of work after he surrendered three in the fifth.
The Bullpen, outside of Bryan Morris, faired very well as David Phelps and A.J. Ramos managed to lock down the game in their respective 8th and 9th innings. Together they only allowed one baserunner and struck out one batter each in what was another effective outing for a bullpen that has been one of the more consistent in baseball.
Day of Strikeouts
Roaming through the other games around baseball, I noticed that today was a pretty strikeout heavy day across a lot of games for starting pitchers. Wei-Yin Chen of course had 12, but most notably Max Scherzer K'd 20 batters - yes... 20! - at home against the Tigers. Seven other starting pitchers across baseball managed 8 or more strikeouts, and as I write this there are still two games in progress (NYMvLAD and STLvLAA). The others to strikeout 8+ were Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray, Chad Bettis, Danny Salazar, Cole Hamels, Drew Pomeranz, and Kyle Hendricks. Chen finished with the second most among starters tonight (so far), with his 12. Any other night and this would most likely be one of the better pitching performances but Scherzer had to ruin the fun - in dramatic fashion!
Chen will most likely throw next Tuesday at the Phillies ballpark, and matchup against the electric Vincent Velasquez - barring any rainouts or unexpected rescheduling of the rotation for either team.
Off day tomorrow for the Marlins as they head into Washington, D.C. to take on the first place Washington Nationals starting Friday night.
Hero of the Game: Wei-Yin Chen (+.270 WPA)
Goat of the Game: Bryan Morris (-.059 WPA)
Play of the Game: Justin Bour 2-run HR in 5th (+.211 WPA)