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White Sox Thu Sep 20 2012

The Man They Call Cy Chen

Another Bruce Chen start... another time this season that the Sox were completely flummoxed by his stuff.

Chen didn't allow a run over his 6.2 innings, and Kansas City's offense did just enough to eke out a 3-0 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday night. It was Chen's third win over the Sox since the all-star break. Not counting Chen's stinker at Sox Park 12 days ago, where he allowed five runs and took the loss, Chen pitched 19.1 innings in his wins - and he allowed only four earned runs, 17 hits and five walks. About as dominant as a soft-tossing lefty can do against this powerful Sox squad.

How did this happen? How did Chen, who has been the embodiment of an average pitcher over his career, not only shut down the Sox, but also have his opponents know they were going to struggle against him even before he took the mound?

It surely wasn't by overpowering anyone. Chen struck out 11 Sox over his three wins. Eleven strikeouts? That's a good-not-great performance by Chris Sale in one outing. With a fastball that barely reaches 89, Chen can't consistently blow pitches by Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski. He didn't even use the fastball that much on Wednesday: Chen threw it only twice in the fourth inning, a frame where he worked out of a bases loaded, no out spot.

Chen used off-speed pitches and breaking balls, and he placed them in almost ideal spots. Chen's looping stuff is hard to square up on. It was Jam City for the Sox on Wednesday, as Chen put his slider either in on the hands or on the outside corner. It led to the Chen's 15:5 fly ball/ground ball ratio on the evening, including several weak infield pop ups.

He is a unique hurler when he's going good. Chen is not afraid to leave balls up in the zone, and when he might also lay an 85 mph change or sinker over the plate, knowing that the ball will most likely be lofted out to an outfielder rather than clear the fence. When he does use the fastball, he'll put it on the inside part of the plate, surprising Sox hitters for a called third strike.

Chen is just like Justin Verlander in terms of their effect on the Sox offense. More of a Bizarro Verlander, because they could not be any more different in many aspects: pitching style, background, career stats, even the hand they throw with. They do have one thing in common though.

The White Sox no longer have to face them in 2012.

 

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