To hear Mariners starter Chris Young tell it, his three-hit gem Saturday night over eight innings in a 3-1 victory over Kansas City had little to do with anything he did.
“The guys came out, Smoky and Acks, and swung the bats,” Young said. “And they played great defense. It’s nice to bounce back and get a win tonight after losing (Friday).”
Let’s stop there for a moment.
Yes…Smoky (Justin Smoak) and Acks (Dustin Ackley) provided the necessary production by hitting homers against Royals rookie phenom Yordano Ventura.
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And, yes, the Mariners don’t win if they get shut out — and that’s not hyperbole after scoring just two runs over their three previous games.
But…Young never allowed the Royals to put more than one runner on base in any inning. He didn’t walk anybody after walking 16 over 29 2/3 innings in six previous outings.
“We couldn’t pick the ball up on him,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “You know, he’s 6-(feet-)10 with downhill action on his pitches. With the deception, we just didn’t get good swings on him.”
So let’s try again. Request to Young: Assess your performance.
“I’m happy we won,” he said. “That’s first and foremost. My goal is for the team to win the day I pitch, however it’s done. The credit goes to the hitters for giving me the runs.
“The defense was phenomenal. Positioning of the defenders by the coaching staff and the scouting department…this was a total team contribution. This wasn’t just me.”
Actually, the only run Young surrendered was tainted. Right fielder Michael Saunders stumbled and fell while chasing what should have been a one-out single by Mike Moustakas in the third inning.
The ball got past Saunders, and Moustakas wound up with a triple. Alcides Escobar followed with a sacrifice fly to deep left, and the Royals led 1-0.
Saunders finished the inning but didn’t return for the fourth because of what the Mariners identified as a hyper-extended left knee. His status is characterized as “day to day.”
Ventura, 2-2, flashed the power arm that has generated such attention but surrendered those two homers before exiting after a one-out walk in the seventh inning.
Smoak turned around a 96-mph fastball after Corey Hart’s leadoff single in the fourth. Ackley jumped a hanging change-up with two outs in the sixth.
“The guy throws 95 to 100 (mph) and looks like he’s playing catch,” Smoak said. “You’ve got to go up there looking for the fastball.
“That’s what we tried to do as a team, and we were able to get a couple of balls out of there tonight.”
Mostly, though, this was Young continuing a remarkable career renaissance less than a year after finally solving persistent shoulder problems by undergoing a procedure that addressed a nerve issue.
“He’s awesome, especially here right now,” Ackley said. “He’s kind of a fly-ball pitcher, and when you’re a fly-ball pitcher here, it’s works to your advantage.”
Young improved to 3-0 and lowered his ERA to 2.63 before manager Lloyd McClendon summoned Fernando Rodney to pitch the ninth. Rodney worked around a two-out single for his 11th save in 12 chances.
“I decided to go to my closer,” McClendon said, “but there are a couple of factors that go into it. The fact that (Young) is coming off surgery, and the fact that he’s trying to get through a lineup for a fourth time.
“That’s difficult for any pitcher to do, regardless of whether it’s Chris Young, (Hisashi) Iwakuma or Felix (Hernandez). That’s a very difficult thing to do. We have that closer for a reason, and he’s been pretty darn good.”
Young had no objection.
“My goal is to help this team make the playoffs,” he said. “I try not to evaluate at this point. I just want to keep getting better, working hard and helping the club.
“I feel it we do that one game at a time, when we look back, we’ll be satisfied with where we are.”
Saturday was a another step in that direction. The Mariners won for the 12th time in 16 games; Young has three victories in that surge.
“He was great,” Smoak said. “He's a guy who gets a lot of fly balls. To be able to do that in Safeco Field is pretty good. He pitched a heck of a game, and we were able to get a couple of runs for him and won the ballgame.”