Young beats Nats with arm, bat
Starter throws seven strong innings, goes deep in seventh
WASHINGTON -- There are times, Chris Young said, when maximum effort is the only way to go -- dialing up the velocity, digging deep for something extra and taking a discernibly aggressive approach with opposing hitters.
For a few innings, Young, the Padres' starting pitcher on Saturday, thought this was the way to attack the Washington Nationals, and so he went after them that way only to discover that more isn't always better.
"Tonight, the max effort wasn't working," Young said following the Padres' 6-1 victory.
Instead, Young backed off the velocity and relied more on his secondary pitches, which helped him and the Padres roll past Washington in front of a before a crowd of 27,474 at Nationals Park.
Truth be told, Young might have put some maximum effort to work for him on Saturday, though it occurred at the plate, when he socked his first career home run in the seventh inning.
But on the pitching side, less was definitely more.
"What I liked is, he threw the ball better as the game went on," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "I thought his last 25 pitches were some his best. ... Now, I'm starting to see confidence in his secondary pitches.
"There's still a lot of upside in [his] game."
Young (6-6) allowed two hits over seven shutout innings, as he continued a run of good starts since coming off the disabled list on July 29 after missing 54 games since taking a line drive off his face from St. Louis' Albert Pujols in May.
In his seven starts since returning from the disabled list, Young is 2-2 with a 3.61 ERA, though a rough start in Colorado on Aug. 10, in which he allowed seven runs, skews those statistics some.
Two starts ago on Sept. 7, Young came within four outs of his first perfect game in an outing against Milwaukee. Saturday's start, in some respects, might have been every bit as impressive, given that the right-hander was able to change his approach as the game went on.
"Early on, I was fighting myself, mechanically. I wasn't as sharp as I would like to be," Young said. "As the game progressed, I tried to do less. I was trying to make a perfect pitch, throwing hard. So I took a little off and found my rhythm and tempo."
Young had three walks over the first three innings as he struggled to find his fastball command. But in the fourth inning, he was starting to get dialed in, setting down three hitters in order. In the sixth inning, he needed just eight pitches to get three outs.
"He spotted his fastball, and his offspeed pitches were breaking out of the zone," said Washington third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. "He does a good job of hiding the ball.
"It's deceptive. Tonight, he was spotting well. He didn't make any mistakes. Any kind of pitcher who does that is tough."
The bullpen duo of Mike Adams and Clay Hensley took care of the rest, though Adams allowed a run in the eighth inning. Still, it wasn't enough to throw much of a scare into the Padres (60-95), who have a chance for their first road sweep since July 24-26, 2006, on Sunday.
The offense, as was the case in Friday's 11-6 victory in 14 innings, provided some pop against the Nationals (58-97), as Edgar Gonzalez drilled a two-run home run in the fifth inning following an error by second baseman Emilio Bonifacio on a tough play up the middle that could have ended the inning.
The error gave Gonzalez a chance to hit, and he took Nationals starting pitcher John Lannan (9-14) deep over the fence in left field. That was all the offense the Padres would need, especially with the way Young was pitching.
Young will get one more start this season Saturday at PETCO Park against the Pirates, where he'll attempt to keep a good thing going. In a season during which he lost two months, first due to facial fractures from the Pujols line drive and later to soreness in his right forearm, Young said it's important he finishes the season pitching this way.
"When I came back, it was a goal of mine to finish strong," Young said. "I only wish I was able to get on this roll in May."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.