Chen won in the major leagues for the first time since 2005, and Billy Butler(notes) hit a two-run homer in a five-run first inning as the Kansas City Royals beat the Seattle Mariners 8-2 on Thursday night.
Chen, who had lost his past 13 decisions, earned his first victory since Oct. 2, 2005, while with the Baltimore Orioles. Chen (1-6) held the Mariners to two runs, despite giving up a season-high 10 hits and a walk in 6 2-3 innings, matching his longest outing this season.
“It feels forever, very long,” Chen said of the gap between victories. “Every time I was out there, people kept reminding me, last win in October 2005. Now they have to say it was Aug. 6, 2009. Let’s start a new streak now.
“I feel like a gorilla’s with a bunch of kids, maybe a family of five, is off my back. To get this win out of the way is just a tremendous relief for me.”
After winning 13 games in 2005, Chen went winless in 2006 with the Orioles. He made five relief appearances with Texas in 2007 before needing elbow surgery and sitting out 2008.
“I remember 2006, I went out there and was 0-7 and it was like, `When am I going to get a win?”’ Chen said. “I had the surgery and didn’t pitch for a couple of years. There were times I could have just quit, but I love the game. I really thought I could make it back and be successful. I came here and I couldn’t get a win. I was getting better. It was just hang in there, and finally today I get my first win. I’m very, very happy.”
The Royals batted around in their biggest first inning since scoring five runs on Aug. 29, 2007, against Detroit.
“Five runs in the first inning, that was huge,” Chen said. “I haven’t had that all year. After that it was a lot easier to pitch. I think my teammates knew I didn’t win in a long time. I said `My teammates got me five runs and I don’t want to let them down.’ I’m very grateful to my teammates. They knew I hadn’t won in a long time and they really wanted to get me a win this year.”
Butler’s home run was his season-high 13th and he had his team-leading 14th multi-RBI game. The first inning included a two-run double by Mark Teahen(notes) and a run-scoring double by Yuniesky Betancourt(notes).
“I think Billy’s continuing to mature, getting quicker and better recognition more often,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said. “I think that’s helping him. In hitting counts, he’s not trying to add power, but just letting it happen. He’s starting to settle in.”
“The one that started it was Butler with a pitch up,” Vargas said. “A couple of jam shots fell in. I just started throwing the ball down more after the first. When it’s up, people have a chance to hit it over the infield. When it’s down, it stays in the infield.”
Vargas gave up eight runs, seven earned, and nine hits in seven innings with three walks and no strikeouts.
“The first thing was giving up five runs,” Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. “I thought Vargas tried to power his fastball in there and got hurt early. I talked with him after he gave up five runs and I thought he did a heck of a job after that.”
Chen got Juan Lopez to ground into a double play with runners on the corners to end the fifth. Lopez’s string of an RBI in seven consecutive games ended.
“Lopez is a good hitter and I threw him an inside fastball and jammed him a little bit,” Chen said. “It was up the middle, but Willie (Bloomquist) was playing him perfect.”
NOTES: Chen threw two wild pitches, bringing the Royals’ total to 61, tops in the majors. No other team in the AL has more than 45. … RHP Juan Cruz(notes), who was 0-2 with an 18.00 ERA in eight relief appearances since the All-Star break, went on the DL with shoulder tendinitis. … The Royals’ victory was only their second in 12 games at home since the All-Star break.