So are the Kansas City Royals.
The journeyman left-hander retired his first 18 batters in a riveting duel with Ervin Santana and Jose Guillen snapped a scoreless tie with a two-run single in the eighth, leading the Royals to a 4-2 victory over the two-time defending AL West champions.
The 13-year veteran, pitching for his 10th major league club less than three weeks before his 33rd birthday, was making his seventh start since being inserted into the rotation when Gil Meche went on the disabled list.
"It feels real good," Chen said. "I've worked very hard and have persevered throughout entire career, and I'm putting everything together. So I'm very grateful for the opportunity the Royals have given me to pitch for them."
Chen (5-2) allowed a run and two hits in 7 1/3 innings, struck out three and was aided by a pair of sensational defensive plays by centerfielder David DeJesus.
"He knows how to pitch," Royals catcher Jason Kendall said. "The key to pitching is keeping people off balance. He changed speeds on his fastball -- you see one at 83, then another at 88. The changeup, same thing. That's a good-hitting team over there, so to do what he did is pretty impressive."
Switch-hitter Erick Aybar ended Chen's bid for the majors' fifth no-hitter of the season -- and third perfect game -- leading off the seventh, when he lined Chen's 76th pitch to left field on a 1-2 fastball for a single.
"Everyone wants to throw a no-hitter, but it's hard," Chen said. "This year happens to be an odd year, where there have been a lot of no-hitters, but I wasn't going to start thinking about that maybe until it was the last out. I just wanted to win the game. It was zero, zero, zero, zero, so I wasn't thinking about anything else except keeping up with [Santana]."
"He mixes his arm angles up, which makes it tougher to pick up the ball," Angels left fielder Reggie Willits said. "He's not overpowering, but he hits his spots and does a good job."
Chen's bid for his first shutout in 128 major league starts ended on his 94th and final pitch: Jeff Mathis hit his second homer of the season to left-center. But the Royals tacked on two runs in the ninth, one on a fielder's choice by Kendall, the other on a wild pitch by Francisco Rodriguez.
Kyle Farnsworth retired both batters he faced in the eighth and Joakim Soria got three outs for his 22nd save in 24 attempts, striking out Hideki Matsui with runners at second and third to end it after Napoli's bases-loaded sacrifice fly.
Chen's effort overshadowed an equally brilliant outing by Santana (8-6), who had allowed only two hits through the first seven innings -- both singles by leadoff hitter Scott Podsednik. But in the eighth, Santana gave up two-out singles to Kendall and DeJesus before hitting Billy Butler with a pitch for the second time to load the bases.
Butler glared at Santana several times, then ripped the batting glove off his right hand and threw it away on the way to first base. Mathis, the catcher, walked to the mound to settle down the obviously rattled Santana, who then gave up Guillen's hit to left-center.
Santana was charged with four runs and seven hits over 8 1/3 innings and struck out four. The only two walks the right-hander allowed were to Butler, who did not have an official at-bat in four plate appearances.
Hunter, a nine-time Gold Glove centerfielder, got a taste of what it's like to be on the other end of a spectacular play when DeJesus raced back toward the warning track and stretched as far as he could to snare Hunter's drive on the dead run and rob him of extra bases in the second.
Two innings later, DeJesus took an extra-base hit away from Abreu with a diving backhanded grab on the warning track in right-center after another long run.
"I used to talk to him all the time when I was with the Twins and we played the Royals 19 times, and he took some of my moves. He knows it," Hunter said with a grin. "I've been watching him a long time and he's come a long way. Now he's one of the best -- but he's definitely underrated."
Royals switch-hitting third baseman Alberto Callaspo was scratched because of a sore left wrist. Wilson Betemit started at third for the third time this season and made a pair of slick barehanded plays in the first inning, one on a bunt by Aybar and the other on a dribbler by Abreu.Notes
- Former Angels pitcher Clyde Wright threw a ceremonial first pitch on the 40th anniversary of his no-hitter against Oakland. On the receiving end was his son, former big league pitcher Jaret Wright.
- DeJesus played his 227th consecutive errorless game, extending the franchise record for outfielders that he set in April, and has committed just one error over his last 356 games in the outfield.