Marlins pitcher Wei-Yin Chen talks about his first MLB hit.
Christian Yelich clanged one off the foul pole for a home run and Derek Dietrich smacked one over the center fielder’s head for a triple.
But neither of those stacked up to Wei-Yin Chen’s weak dribbler.
It was good for a hit, and not just any hit. After 51 fruitless at bats, the pitcher finally ended his historically long drought with a slow rolling grounder he beat out for his first Major League hit.
It was of highlight of the night for the Marlins in their 7-2 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
In his second at bat of the game, Chen fouled off two Zack Wheeler pitches before squirting a soft grounder past the mound. Mets shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera tried to barehand the ball, but couldn’t come up with it cleanly and Chen made it to first without a throw.
“When I hit it, I didn’t know if it was a hit or not,” Chen said. “I think this was the fastest I’ve ever run as a right-handed hitter to first base.”
After he reached the bag, Chen asked first base coach Perry Hill whether his ball was a hit or an error. After all, Chen had an infield hit taken away from him last year in Milwaukee when the official scorer changed a hit to an error. But Hill assured him it was a clean single.
His 0-for-51 drought was the fourth-longest hitless streak to open a career, behind only Jon Lester (66 games), Joey Hamilton (57) and Ron Herbel (55). The lefty pitcher had tried just about everything to change his luck.
Chen started hitting right-handed last season, experimented with bats belonging to Jose Fernandez, then switched to Dee Gordon’s lighter model during spring training.
“It had something to do with Dee’s bat,” Chen said of Friday’s first hit. “I think it might have also had something to do with the fact that Ichiro (Suzuki) was sitting beside me (in the dugout). Maybe he gave me the aura of the hit.”
Chen’s fortunes on the mound Friday were every bit as good. He held the Mets to a run over six innings and out-pitched Wheeler, who was making his first start in 924 days. Wheeler was making his pitching comeback after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.
The Marlins had their way with him.
Dietrich drove in a pair of runs with a second-inning triple, Yelich drove in two more with his pole rattling homer to right, and Wheeler was gone after four innings.
But Dietrich said there was no question as to who had the game’s biggest hit.
“Chen’s single,” Dietrich said.
Even though it was an infield single, Dietrich said nobody will be able to tell when they look at the box score.
“Looks like a line drive,” he said. “No matter when it happens, your first major league hit is your first major league hit. He placed it perfectly. It was a good night for him, for us.”
Gordon, who was standing in the on-deck circle when Chen beat out the single, said he was yelling, “Do it! Do it! Do it!,” as Chen motored toward fast.
Afterward, Chen was all smiles. He did interviews in three languages: English, Japanese and Taiwanese.
“I think I’m more happy about the hit than the win,” he said.