Hung-Wen Chen's best performance of the season sent the Daytona Cubs to the Florida State League Championship Series.
The 22-year-old right-hander yielded three hits over six brilliant innings Friday night as the Cubs coasted past the Palm Beach Cardinals, 6-0, in Game 3 of the FSL East Division Finals at Roger Dean Stadium.
Chen (1-0), who went 4-5 with a 3.38 ERA in 29 appearances between Daytona and Class A Peoria during the regular season, looked sharp from the outset in his first career playoff start.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound native of Taiwan set down the first 12 batters he faced before yielding a leadoff single to Tyler Henley in the fifth. Nick Derba delivered a base hit two batters later and both runners moved up on a wild pitch before Chen struck out Mike Folli to end the Cardinals' best threat of the night.
"[Chen] did a really, really good job of setting the tempo of the game," Daytona pitching coach David Rosario said. "He basically was locating the ball well, mixing pitches well, in and out, and also pitching a little bit backwards."
Chen, who struck out three without walking a batter, improved to 2-0 against Palm Beach this season. He limited the Cardinals to a run on four hits over five innings in an 8-5 victory on July 28 for his last regular-season win.
"I tried to use more breaking balls because that team has good fastball hitters," Chen said through a translator. "I'm ready and really excited for the Championship Series."
Rosario indicated that Chen would start Game 5 in the title series, if necessary, if he isn't used in relief before that.
Blake Lalli went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI and James Adduci and Ty Wright each drove in two runs for the Cubs, who will meet West Division champion Fort Myers in the best-of-5 Finals beginning Saturday at William Hammond Stadium.
"Anytime our starting pitcher is pitching well, like [Chen} did -- he had a no-hitter through [four] -- it's great playing defense behind him and it just makes you want to go out and support him, hitting-wise," said Cubs second baseman and Florida native Tony Thomas after going 2-for-4 with three runs scored.
Daytona, which hasn't won the FSL title since 2000, split six meetings with Fort Myers this season. The Miracle have been waiting for the winner of this series after sweeping Dunedin for the West title.
"I definitely think it gives us an advantage," Thomas said. "They're sitting back, relaxing right now, and we're coming off two big wins and a lot of tight situations. I think we're ready for those situations."
Palm Beach starter Mark Diapoules (0-1) surrendered four runs on seven hits and two walks with four strikeouts over five innings.
Henley went 2-for-4 for the Cardinals, who were denied a shot at their second championship in four years. Palm Beach squandered a five-run lead in Wednesday's series-opening 10-9 loss before rebounding with a 5-4 victory Thursday.