Young dominant as Padres breeze
Right-hander perfect through 7 2/3 in series finale vs. Brewers
MILWAUKEE -- The Padres' 39-year wait for either a no-hitter or a perfect game continues, but just barely.
Chris Young came within four outs of tossing the 18th perfect game in Major League history and the first no-hitter in franchise history in beating the Brewers, 10-1, on Sunday afternoon. Gabe Kapler ended Young's bid for a historic win with a homer to left field with two outs in the eighth. Young gave up one more hit on his way to the first complete game of his career.
"It was just one of those days where things went my way," Young said. "They hit some balls hard, right at guys. Guys made good defensive plays. [Catcher] Nick Hundley did an unbelievable job calling the game. I followed his lead."
The Padres have had 20 one-hitters since their inception in 1969. Only three other teams have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter -- the Rays, Rockies and the Mets, who haven't done it since their inception in 1962. Young's outing on Sunday could have been the first perfect game since Arizona's Randy Johnson blew away the Braves on May 18, 2004.
"I wish that he could have finished it off," left fielder Chase Headley said. "Everybody was really pulling hard for him."
Young (5-5) was extremely efficient, striking out five while throwing 96 pitches, including 66 for strikes.
"I thought he did a very good job of changing speeds, probably more so than in the year and five months that we've been together," second-year Padres manager Bud Black said. "[He threw] a lot of changeups, changed speeds on his slider, mixed in a couple curveballs -- I thought that was key. It looked like he had them off-balance a lot."
Young's stellar outing provided a bright spot in an otherwise dark season. The Padres currently have the worst record in baseball, 55-88.
The strong outing was even more special for Young, personally, given his tough season. The 6-foot-10 right-hander was hit in the face by a line drive from Albert Pujols on May 21, missing two months with a broken nose and fractured skull in a scary, bloody scene. In his third start back after that incident, Young strained his right forearm and missed another three weeks.
"It's been a long road for me," said Young, who has a red scar between his eyes that reminds anyone within sight of that Pujols liner. "A lot of times sitting down, watching, it's been hard, especially the way the season has gone for us as a team. I couldn't sit out and ... whine about it. I had to keep working hard and doing my best to get back out there."
Young said he didn't notice what was going on until the bottom of the seventh. He saw that the first, second and third hitters were due up and realized he had gone through the order twice. Black started thinking about it in the fifth.
"I thought what a bright day it would be for Chris if ultimately what could have happened, happened," said Black, the opposing starter for Cleveland in Dave Stieb's no-hitter for Toronto on Sept. 2, 1990. "He's been close before, but he's persevered through the broken nose and the skull fracture and then the forearm injury to come back. He wants to finish out September on a high note."
Saturday was Young's second start since returning from the arm injury. He faced a pair of three-ball counts -- a 3-2 at-bat to Kapler in the second, and a 3-1 to Rickie Weeks in the fourth. None of the balls in play before Kapler's homer were near-hits, so the Miller Park official scorer wasn't sweating it out too much.
Kapler's towering shot, on a 1-0 fastball, was a no-doubter. Headley respectfully ran to the warning track, but knew all along he would have to be Superman to catch it. On the pitch, Hundley actually called for a slider, but Young wanted the heater, partially to keep from falling farther behind in the count and risking a walk.
"[Young had] been throwing his slider for strikes, doing a great job, painting his fastball, too, down and away," the rookie Hundley said. "I think either pitch would have been successful. Unfortunately, he got a ball over the plate, and he didn't miss it. Pretty much the only ball on the middle of the plate got hit."
"I think one of the three times I shook him [off], I gave up a home run," Young said. "So I've learned my lesson."
Young has been close before. He took no-hitters through five innings on three occasions in 2006, including one against Pittsburgh that was broken up with one out in the ninth by a Joe Randa home run. Cla Meredith came on in that game, on Sept. 22, 2006, to combine for the club's most recent one-hitter. Young isn't dwelling on near-misses, though.
"We were winning the game, that was all I cared about," Young said.
Padres hitters, who came into the series finale on a 0-for-23 drought with runners in scoring position, delivered in a big way on Sunday. In addition to the five-run third off Manny Parra (10-7), Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff launched solo homers, and the Padres scored four times in the seventh.
Young even doubled for his second hit in his 22nd at-bat this season. That equaled half of Milwaukee's hit total on the day.
"It's gratifying to get back out there and have a game like today," Young said. "I have three or four more [starts this year]; I want to finish this strong and get ready for next year."
Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.