NAGOYA — Chen Wei-yin was nervous. A day earlier, he watched the upstart Chiba Lotte Marines pick apart teammate Kazuki Yoshimi and now it was his turn to toe the rubber in what many deemed as a must-win game for the Chunichi Dragons.
In the end, the Dragons swept away the Marines with a hurricane of offense in Game 2 of the Japan Series. Lost in that game was a good performance out of Chen on the mound, which later in the series may prove to have been the most important thing to come out of a 12-1 victory.
“It was different,” Chen said of his debut in the Japanese Fall Classic. “Standing on the mound, I really didn’t know how much strength I should use. So I felt a little more tired than usual.”
Nerves aside, Chen delivered six innings of one-run ball, allowing four hits and striking out six.
“It was good,” Chen said of his performance. “Usually I’m not good early in a game. But after my last two times out, I figured it would be better to go all out from the beginning. I ended up having a good outcome, although I wanted to pitch until the seventh inning.”
The most trouble Chen faced all night came in the fourth and was mostly of his own doing. He led off the frame by hitting Ikuhiro Kiyota, then gave up a single to Tadahito Iguchi. He later gave up a run when Toshiaki Imae lined a single up the middle.
“We gave him lots of run support,” Dragons manager Hiromitsu Ochiai said. “So he was able to relax and just throw strikes and keep the game moving.”
Chen wasn’t always sharp and threw 101 pitches through six innings. By then, Ochiai had seen enough.
“He went long enough and didn’t need to push himself too much,” Ochiai said.
Chen struggled in the playoffs last season, giving up five runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Yomiuri Giants in Game 2 of final stage of the Central League Climax Series.
He bounced back this year, tossing 6 2/3 shutout innings in Game 1 of the final stage against the Giants before Sunday’s win.
“He pitched in the Climax Series last year and did not do so well,” said left fielder Kazuhiro Wada, who drove in three runs in Game 2. “So it’s good he pitched well in the Climax Series this year, and now he has his first Japan Series win under his belt.”
Chen was 13-10 with a 2.87 ERA during the regular season, including 6-3 with a 2.64 ERA at home. The left-hander is Chunichi’s top pitcher and was expected to take the ball in Game 1 of the Japan Series.
The Dragons opted to go with Yoshimi instead and dropped the series opener after his rough outing. That set Chen up to toe the rubber in Game 2.
“Before we entered the Japan Series, we decided to go with Yoshimi in Game 1,” Chen said. “I thought he would get a win for us, but actually he lost. But no matter how Yoshimi did, I was going to pitch my game.”
He entered the game wary of the Marines’ aggressive style at the plate, honed in the pitching-rich PL, which got Yoshimi in trouble early. Though Chen said he didn’t take much out of watching Yoshimi pitch in Game 1.
“Yoshimi and I are different types of pitchers,” Chen said. “Yoshimi takes advantage of his control and I take advantage of my speed.
“When we were talking in meetings, we knew they would swing early in the count. So I knew it was coming and I tried to overpower them. Even when they could make contact, they could only hit foul balls or grounders, not extra-base hits.”
A Taipei Times reporter in attendance said only major leaguers Wang Chien-ming of the Washington Nationals and Hu Chin-lung of the Los Angeles Dodgers surpass Chen in terms of popularity among sports stars in the island nation.
He lived up to that standard in Game 2 to help the Dragons salvage a split as the series heads to Chiba Marine Stadium for the next three games, starting on Tuesday.
“Yoshimi lost in a regrettable way,” Chen said. “So I tried not to repeat the same, and win by any means. Borrowing some of Yoshimi’s power, I just tried to pitch my game and get a win.”
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.