Bullpen wastes Young's strong effort
Padres fall to D-backs despite three early homers
PHOENIX -- When Chris Young leaves the game with a three-run lead, he usually expects to find a victory next to his name.But things did not go as planned for the Padres and their bullpen Saturday night in a 5-4 loss to the D-backs in front of 36,833 at Chase Field, wasting a nearly perfect six innings from Young. "We've got the best bullpen in the league. We still have the best bullpen in the league after tonight, and more than likely at the end of the season we'll have the best bullpen," Young said, "so any time you turn it over to our guys you feel completely confident." Manager Bud Black pulled Young after the starter gave up one run on two hits over six innings, retiring the first 13 batters he faced, with a fresh bullpen in tow after resting over the All-Star break. With Young pitching on three days' rest following an appearance in the All-Star Game, and Heath Bell, Scott Linebrink and Trevor Hoffman available, Black felt comfortable with the call. Bell immediately coughed up the lead, giving up three runs on five hits in one-third of an inning in the seventh, before Linebrink (2-2) gave up the winning RBI single to Chad Tracy in the eighth. "I didn't think it was necessary for Chris to grind out over 100-plus pitches on three days' rest when we still have over two and a half months in the season," Black said. "It's a rare occurrence what you saw tonight. We haven't seen that much this season." Said Young: "I thought he made the right decision. You've got Belly, Liney and Hoffy down there, a 4-1 lead. ... Rarely over the course of the season are you going to see that happen, but that's the thing about baseball, 162 games, it happens, so if it happened again tomorrow, if I was out there again tomorrow, I'd do the same thing, turn it over to those guys, they're awesome. We wouldn't be here without them." Arizona's Brandon Lyon (6-3) pitched a perfect eighth before closer Jose Valverde slammed the door in the ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances. After Eric Byrnes legged out an infield hit against Bell leading off the seventh, Black felt Bell's fastball location was not where it needed to be, catching too much of the plate up in the zone. A stagnant Arizona offense that looked overmatched against Young suddenly caught fire with five consecutive singles and a sacrifice fly in between before pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds tied the score, 4-4, with a sac fly of his own. "I felt fine," Bell said. "I don't feel fine now. It's the way the cookie crumbles. It's a little different. They were just hitting the ball. Wherever I was throwing it they were hitting. I didn't really think I was up in the zone. I might have been, but I don't think so. It sucks to kind of let the team down in that situation. I've only done it a few times. "They got a little momentum going, and it's hard to stop it when you have momentum."
Young mowed down the D-backs with a perfect 4 1/3 innings before nemesis Tony Clark hooked a home run just inside the right-field foul pole on an inside slider to break up the perfect game.Young just smiled as Clark rounded the bases, knowing he had made a good pitch. Young had faced 315 batters in 80 2/3 innings since allowing his last long ball, which ironically came back on April 26 against Clark, who has hit three of the four homers Young has allowed this year. "It's one of those things," Young said. "It's sort of a weird thing, but he's a good hitter first of all, so you've got to give him credit. He hit a tough pitch. I thought the last time he got me he hit tough pitches, but he's a professional hitter. He's had a great career. He's a veteran hitter, knows how to hit, how to play the game. I knew he was going to be in there before the game just because of his track record." Young was not surprised the ball left the yard, but he was not sure if Clark would keep it fair. The pitcher said all you can do is tip your cap when a hitter hits a pitch like that.
Stephen Drew followed the Clark homer with a single, but Young did not allow any baserunners besides those back-to-back hits in the fifth, striking out eight in throwing 96 pitches (62 strikes) in his six innings. Young lowered his Major League-best ERA to 1.97 with a fastball he felt had good life and slider that came along as the game progressed."I thought he pitched great, absolutely outstanding," Black said. "It's sort of indicative of how he's pitched all year." The Padres scored all of their runs off the long ball against Arizona starter Livan Hernandez. Brian Giles hit a two-run home run in the fifth, his first shot in 150 at-bats. Khalil Greene broke his own single-season franchise record for home runs by a shortstop with a solo homer in the fourth. Kevin Kouzmanoff continued his torrid hitting of late with a solo shot in the third. The early scoring did not pan out, with the Padres dropping the first two games after the break to the D-backs. San Diego fell one game behind the Dodgers in the National West, with Arizona on the Padres' heels, only 2 1/2 games back, but Young is not worried. "There's a lot of baseball left to be played, and I still think we haven't played our best baseball yet," he said. "We're in good shape where we are. We'll continue to get better and hopefully get hot at the right time."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.