Young, bullpen hold off Tigers at Safeco Field
Right-hander works six-plus frames; Bloomquist plates pair
SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon is running out of ways to describe the impact Chris Young has made on his team's pitching rotation this season, but that's OK with the first-year skipper.
On a team that spent the first month without All-Star right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma and most of the first two months without young standouts Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, the 6-foot-10 Young has stepped into the breach in a big way.
The former National League All-Star continued his Safeco Field dominance with six-plus innings of three-hit ball on Saturday night as the Mariners topped the Tigers, 3-2.
"I think I used all the adjectives last time I talked about him," McClendon said after Young improved to 5-2 with a 3.27 ERA. "I don't have any more. The guy is phenomenal. He knows his game plan, he knows what he wants to do and he follows it pretty good. Tonight, he was pretty good."
Young allowed just two runs -- including a fourth-inning solo homer by Miguel Cabrera -- as he helped even the series going into Sunday afternoon's finale.
The five victories are the most in a season for Young since 2008 when he won seven games for the Padres, a year after earning All-Star honors. Young began battling shoulder problems at that time and says he never felt right again despite a pair of surgeries until he underwent a procedure to alleviate a nerve issue called thoracic outlet syndrome last year.
"Physically, I feel good," Young said. "I feel like my breaking ball has gotten a little better and there's pretty good life on the fastball. Whether that means I'm stronger or what, I'm just trying to get everything in sync and make good pitches."
The 35-year-old is 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts at home this season and 6-0 with a 2.84 ERA in nine career starts in Seattle, the only pitcher in the history of Safeco Field to make seven or more starts without a loss.
Other than Cabrera's bomb, Young's only run came when he surrendered a leadoff double to Austin Jackson in the seventh before being replaced by rookie Dominic Leone, who eventually allowed Jackson to score on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 3-2.
Yoervis Medina and closer Fernando Rodney then slammed the door to preserve Young's win, with Rodney's 14th save coming against his former team, although not without some ninth-inning drama. Rodney allowed a walk and bloop single before striking out Andrew Romine and Rajai Davis and getting Ian Kinsler to hit into a game-ending fielder's choice.
Rodney acknowledged he still gets hyped to face a Tigers team that he came up with as a youngster and played his first seven seasons in the Majors with from 2002-09.
"Sometimes we take a little bit of emotion, but that's part of the game," he said. "Sometimes you try to show too much and try to do things too quickly. That happens, but I have confidence in myself. I know it's a one-run ballgame and I just say, 'Pick it up Rodney. Let's go Rodney. Make good pitches.'"
And in the end, he did just that, winning a 10-pitch duel with Davis before getting Kinsler for the final out.
"Walk in the park," a smiling shortstop Willie Bloomquist said of the final frame. "We have a lot of confidence in Rod when he's out there. Obviously, you don't like to put the first two guys on like that, but if anybody can get out of that kind of stuff, he can. He's got A-plus stuff, and he's awfully tough when he dials it up a notch."
Bloomquist, getting his first start in the leadoff role, went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles as McClendon hit on some hunches with a right-handed-heavy lineup against Tigers lefty Drew Smyly.
Left fielder Cole Gillespie, another right-handed hitter making just his third start in the past 23 games, went 2-for-3 with a pair of infield singles, an RBI, a run scored and a stolen base and also made a key catch at the wall to deny Kinsler for the final out with two on in the seventh.
"I felt like I had a pretty good jump on it," said Gillespie. "The wall actually snuck up on me. I thought I had a little more room, but obviously after I caught the ball, I ran right into the wall. So the dimensions of the field worked out just enough for us tonight. It was a big play for us and we kept the momentum after that."
McClendon stacked his lineup with right-handers against Smyly, who came in holding lefties to a .122 average compared to .286 for right-handers, and the ploy seemed to work as the southpaw needed 105 pitches to get through four innings and was replaced after allowing seven hits and three runs.
The Mariners plated two runs in the second when they worked Smyly for four singles, including a dribbler to second by Gillespie that drove in Stefen Romero after John Buck had blooped a base hit into left.
"I think every hit that inning, I had them at 1-2, and just couldn't finish them," Smyly said. "They were taking really good two-strike breaking balls and then get back into hitters' counts, put it in play. It just didn't work out for me."
Young was more effective for the Mariners, which is something they've become accustomed to this season as he's made an early case for Comeback Player of the Year honors after not pitching in the Majors last season.
"He's awesome," Bloomquist said. "Probably the most prepared pitcher I've ever played behind. He's probably already studying for his next start. When he goes to the mound, you know he's prepared and is confident in what he's going to throw up there. It just goes to show you don't have to have 96 [mph] in the bag to go out and be an effective pitcher."
The Mariners are 5-5 on their season-long 11-game homestand and one game under .500 at 27-28, while Detroit fell to 31-21 with its ninth loss in the past 13 games.