Wei-Yin Chen said he didn’t make any major adjustments Thursday.
“I didn’t really do anything different,” Chen said. “This year I’ve been pretty well physically, but I didn’t pitch that well. I just tried to keep it simple, because I was over-thinking.”
Chen’s performance was the kind the Marlins were hoping for when they signed the Taiwanese lefty to a five-year, $80 million deal in the offseason.
Chen struck out seven without walking a batter, and allowed five hits in seven innings, which matched his longest start of the season. Although he didn’t figure in the decision, his effort led to a 4-2 Marlins’ win over the Cubs.
“[Chen] only throws 92 [mph], but he gets on you quick,” Cubs rookie Willson Contreras said after the game. “He’s quick to the plate, slide step. He’s a smart pitcher. He made his pitches.”
Starts like Thursday’s have not come as often as Chen or the Marlins have hoped.
But the turnaround was a welcome sight for both following three consecutive poor starts in which he gave up a combined 15 earned runs including seven home runs in 13 2/3 innings (9.87 ERA over that span).
Chen matched Jon Lester (2.10 ERA) in hits allowed, runs allowed and strikeouts.
One of Chen’s runs was largely because of a fielding mistake by Marcell Ozuna, who allowed a routine single to skip past him in center field, allowing Jason Heyward to get to third and eventually score. Chen retired 11 consecutive batters before allowing a game-tying homer in the eighth inning to David Ross, which ended his night.
“It looked like [Thursday night] he pitched with an attitude, that he was going to be aggressive and that he was going to go after people,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
Chen’s start was the latest in a dominant three-game stretch for Marlins’ starters, along with Jose Fernandez and Adam Conley, in which they have allowed only two runs in 22 innings, 10 hits, while striking out 18 and walking only three. Their combined ERA over the past three games is 0.82 ERA.
Fernandez went seven innings Tuesday against the Braves before Conley lasted eight innings Wednesday for the longest outing by a Marlins’ starter so far this season.
Tom Koehler entered Friday’s start having won his previous three starts and compiling a 2.00 ERA during that stretch.
The Marlins, who have used their bullpen plenty through the first 73 games, could use as many lengthy starts as they can get.
“It’s been good because we really needed those longer outings for the bullpen,” Mattingly said. “We’re not over the hump yet, but the last three [starts] have been solid.”
Paul Clemens is scheduled to make his second start Saturday since being called up following Justin Nicolino’s demotion to the minors.
Clemens gave up three runs (all on solo home runs in one inning) on seven hits, walked three and struck out two. He did not figure in the decision, exiting with the game tied before the Rockies hit two more solo home runs in what resulted in a 5-3 loss for the Marlins.
It was Clemens’ first start since Sept. 28, 2013 while with the Astros, and his first appearance on a major-league mound since Aug. 2, 2014.
“It’s what you see from a guy who hasn’t been up here for a little bit and wants to show what he can do,” Mattingly said. “Hopefully, this next one can be a little less stressed. He still only gave up three runs in five innings. He kept us in it.”
▪ Saturday: Marlins RHP Clemens (0-0, 5.40 ERA) vs. Cubs RHP John Lackey (7-3, 2.78), 4:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Fernandez (9-3, 2.36) vs. Cubs RHP Jason Hammel (7-3, 2.55), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.