As the schedule prepares to enter September, Mariners right-hander Chris Young is already navigating territory — pitching 150-plus innings — he hasn’t seen in seven years.
“I just want to finish strong,” he said. “That’s my only goal. I want the best chance for finishing strong to help the team. I have six more starts, and I want to make every one count.”
The Mariners have pushed Young back twice in the rotation since he lasted a season-low 32/3 innings on Aug. 23 in Boston. When he starts Monday in Oakland, it will be almost as if he skipped a turn.
“I think we’ve tried to be careful with him throughout the year,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ve really watched the number of pitches that he throws. Not so much the innings.
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“He is (a) veteran guy, but he is coming off the injury. He’s responded very well.”
Young, 35, is a strong candidate for any comeback-of-the-year award. He is 12-6 with a 3.17 ERA in 26 games after enduring years of shoulder miseries. He pitched fewer than 100 innings in four of his past five seasons.
“No,” Young insisted. “Not at all. I hope to stay that way. I’m ready to go Monday. It’s all relative, too, because I look at where I’ve been for the last five years. Anything is a lot better than that.”
His career turned around in June when, as a last resort, he opted for a new approach that sought to address his shoulder problem by treating the nerves: thoracic outlet decompression surgery.
“Since then,” he said, “I’ve been 100 percent pain-free.”
Two late-season rehab starts in the Nationals’ system offered encouragement. Young then pitched well in spring training. He couldn’t crack Washington’s rotation but remained hopeful.
“My shoulder feels like new,” he said. “Knock on wood. It’s exciting for me. I’m hopeful there are great things ahead, and I’m excited to really make up for some lost time.”
Released by the Nationals in late March, he landed with the Mariners, who suddenly needed a starter after reaching a contract impasse with veteran lefty Randy Wolf.
The results have been beyond what anyone expected.
The goal now is to keep it going.
“This is the last chance for extended rest,” Young said. “We’re in a stretch (starting Monday) where we play 27 games in 28 days. I feel it’s a good decision to make sure I’m 100 percent every time out.”
SEAGER SLUGGING AT SAFECO
Third baseman Kyle Seager is on pace for the second-best slugging percentage in a single season at Safeco Field for players with at least 150 plate appearances.
A hat tip to STATS, for this tidbit.
Seager entered Saturday with a .586 slugging percentage in 269 plate appearances in 68 games this season at Safeco.
The only player to do better was Ken Griffey Jr., who slugged .616 over 178 plate appearances in 42 games in 1999 after the park’s mid-July opening. His slugging percentage was .618 over 165 plate appearances that year in 37 games at the Kingdome.
Bret Boone holds the record for the highest slugging percentage in a full season at Safeco with a .580 mark in 2001. Edgar Martinez is next at .563 in 2000, followed by Raul Ibanez’s .553 in 2006.
The Mariners entered Saturday with a 10-game losing streak against the Nationals, which began when the Montreal Expos franchise relocated to Washington after the 2004 season.
In 2004, by the way, the Mariners swept a three-game series against the Expos at Safeco Field.
The 10-game skid is one shy of the interleague record. Oakland posted 11 consecutive victories over Pittsburgh before the Pirates broke through with a 5-0 victory on July 10, 2013.
Right-hander Victor Sanchez, one of the Mariners’ top pitching prospects, is likely to make five starts in winter ball for the Caracas Lions, according to the Venezuelan newspaper “Lider en Deportes”.
Sanchez, 19, is a native Venezuelan who is completing his third professional season.
He is 7-6 with a 3.99 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A Jackson.
He was ranked by “Baseball America” as the Mariners’ No. 7 overall prospect prior to the season.
It was 24 years ago Sunday — Aug. 31, 1990 — that Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. played together for the first time in the same lineup.
Both Griffeys had singles in a three-run first inning that carried the Mariners to 5-2 victory over Kansas City at the Kingdome. Randy Johnson got the victory.
The Mariners and Nationals conclude their three-game weekend series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (12-6, 2.83 ERA) will oppose Washington right-hander Tanner Roark (12-8, 2.81). Root Sports will broadcast the game.
The Mariners open a three-game series Monday at Oakland before concluding their upcoming road trip next weekend with four games at Texas.