Young lacks supporting cast in starting debut
Veteran tosses six scoreless, but Cano's two hits highlight quiet offense
SEATTLE -- Chris Young waited and waited.
He waited while missing most of 2013 recovering from in-season surgery to fix thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that irritates the nerves and blood vessels in the neck and chest.
He waited on a sunny April 4 this year in Oakland after his first scheduled start in the Major Leagues since Sept. 29, 2012, was postponed because of soggy playing conditions at O.co Coliseum. Two days later, he made his first career relief appearance and threw two scoreless innings for the Mariners against the Athletics after not throwing a pitch in the big leagues last season.
The real wait was over on a breezy Sunday afternoon at Safeco Field in what ended through no fault of Young's as a 3-0 Mariners loss to the Athletics.
In Young's first start in the American League since 2005, the 6-foot-10 right-hander was everything Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon wanted, scattering four hits and three walks in six scoreless innings.
But the Mariners for the second consecutive game could not muster much offense, dropping the three-game series and moving their season record to 6-5.
The decider came in the eighth inning, when Oakland outfielder Yoenis Cespedes crushed reliever Charlie Furbush's curveball over the left-field fence for a two-run home run that silenced the 22,628 in attendance.
Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson added a solo shot in the ninth to extend the lead, but it wasn't needed, as Seattle finished with just three hits.
Given a chance to even at 3-3 the season series with the defending American League West champions, the Mariners simply could not get their bats going on the final day of their five-game homestand as Seattle dropped its second consecutive series to the A's.
With Dustin Ackley taking the afternoon off, the only starter with a batting average above .300 at day's end was second baseman Robinson Cano, whom the club signed in the offseason to a 10-year, $240 million contract. On Sunday, Cano and shortstop Brad Miller were the only Mariners to record hits.
"You don't want to look for anything negative right now," Cano said. "You just got to turn the page and be ready for tomorrow."
The silver lining: Young struck out two and threw 97 pitches, 60 for strikes, saving the Mariners' bullpen for its four-game series with Texas at the hitter-friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington. Despite not featuring overpowering stuff, the 34-year-old Princeton alumnus managed to avoid the sweet parts of Oakland's bats as the A's stranded seven runners through the first six innings as Young finished with a no-decision.
Afterward, Young said his throwing shoulder was in so much pain last season that he could not sleep at night. Playing catch was obviously out of the question. If he required another shoulder surgery, he was going to retire. But doctors in the Nationals organization told him that the injuries bothering him for the last five years were nerve-related. Then came surgery to help deal with thoracic outlet syndrome.
"Since [surgery], I've had no pain in my shoulder," Young said Sunday. "It's been great. I dedicated myself to committing to get back to the big leagues and being a successful pitcher again. … I can sleep on my right side again. That's a big indicator for me."
Limiting the Mariners' offense was Oakland starter Scott Kazmir, who gave up two hits in six innings and struck out nine to lower his season ERA to 1.40.
"I know guys are a little disappointed, McClendon said, "but listen, I've said this all along: Winning games at this level is tough, and when you run into a buzz saw… Kazmir's been on fire, and he chewed us up pretty good today."
Seattle's best chance to put runs on the board came in the fourth when Miller and Cano recorded back-to-back singles with one out. After designated hitter Corey Hart grounded into a fielder's choice that advanced runners to second and third, Smoak fanned to finish the frame.
Is McClendon concerned about the offense?
"I was today. Tomorrow, I'll be just fine. When you get two or three hits, nobody looks good, and everybody's talking about the offense, but a couple days ago we were just fine. This is the big leagues, and a guy threw a gem at us again today, but we'll bounce back and we'll be fine."