Mariners top Angels behind Young's gem, Cano's bat
SEATTLE -- Chris Young seems to have found a perfect match with the Mariners and Safeco Field this season, as the 6-foot-10 right-hander remained unbeaten in his new home park with a 5-1 victory over the Angels on Monday afternoon.
Young, who turned 35 on Sunday, didn't allow a hit until a one-out single in the sixth, and finished with 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball on two hits following an Albert Pujols leadoff homer in the seventh. He snapped a two-game losing streak -- both coming on the road -- in improving to 4-2 with a 3.30 ERA.
Young said he's thrilled to have found a home after pitching in the Minors last year and then being released by the Nationals at the end of Spring Training.
"I love it here," Young said. "I'm grateful for the opportunity and I want to continue to make the most of it. The Mariners took a chance on me and I want to reward them for it. I want to get back to being the pitcher that I once was, and I feel like that's what I'm working toward. That's what I'm trying to do, and I'll keep going."
Young is a fly-ball pitcher who fits in well at Seattle's spacious park, where he is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in four games this year, and 5-0 with a 2.82 ERA in eight career starts.
"I was trying to find the adjectives to describe this guy today," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. "What a godsend for this rotation. He's just been tremendous. [He pitches] in and out, up and down. He never wavers. He knows what he wants to do and executes it pretty good."
Young signed a one-year deal just prior to the start of the regular season, and feels he's a new man now following thoracic outlet syndrome surgery to relieve nerve pressure in his shoulder that has hindered him since his 2007 All-Star season with the Padres. The Angels saw all of that on Monday as they managed just two walks until Kole Calhoun's single in the sixth.
"I was aware, but you know you don't expect to throw no-hitters," Young said. "I saw what Josh Beckett did yesterday. We had the same surgery last year. I'm super excited for him, to see that. It's inspirational and it gives me hope that I can continue to make the most of my career as well."
Angels catcher Hank Conger said Young's mid-80s fastball is deceptive, coming out of the lanky right-hander's long delivery.
"He gets on you. I think that's the biggest struggle," Conger said. "I know the gun doesn't really say that, but the ball just looks like it's kind of coming out at 50 feet. People see 86 [mph] and they're wondering why we're kind of getting behind, popping balls up. It's actually because he's getting on you. He's working the top of the zone very well."
Second baseman Robinson Cano led Seattle's offensive attack with a 3-for-4 day with two RBIs as he hiked his batting average to .332 and took over the team lead in RBIs with 30.
The Mariners scored five runs in the first two innings against 22-year-old lefty Tyler Skaggs, with some help from the Angels' defense.
James Jones led off with an infield single on a nubber down the third-base line, then Michael Saunders was credited with a single after dropping down a bunt that Skaggs fielded and accidentally threw to second baseman Howie Kendrick -- who was standing about five feet to the left of first baseman Pujols.
The Mariners took advantage of that gift when Cano followed with an RBI single to center, and Justin Smoak pushed across another run with a groundout to third base on a diving stop behind the bag by David Freese.
"You'd rather be lucky than good sometimes in this game, and certainly in that first inning we were very fortunate to get those two hits and then have Robbie come up in that situation," McClendon said.
The Angels helped out again in the second when shortstop Erick Aybar booted a two-out grounder by Jones that opened the door to three unearned runs for a 5-0 lead. Dustin Ackley scored from third on Aybar's misplay, and Saunders followed with an RBI triple and then scored on Cano's infield single.
The Mariners stole three bases in that second inning as well off Skaggs and Conger -- with Ackley, Jones and Cano each taking second -- to equal their season high for a full game. The last time Seattle swiped three bags in one inning was July 21, 2011, at Toronto.
Saunders was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored. He now leads the team with three triples, matching his career high for a season. The right fielder has hit .462 (12-for-26) with a double, two triples, a home run and nine RBIs in seven games while batting in the No. 2 spot in the order, and is hitting .274 overall.
The Mariners have won five of six this season against the Angels. Seattle is 23-12 in franchise history on Memorial Day, the best winning percentage record in the Majors at .657.
"Those guys have played good baseball against us," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "They've played us very tough, took it to us first three games of season, but [we're] not going to get preoccupied with them. We have to play good to beat them. But overall, we're at a much higher level now than we've been at any point of the season. We played them five times in the first 10-12 days."
The two square off three more times this week at Safeco as the Mariners fill out the middle of an 11-game homestand. Seattle is 11-12 at home after Monday's win, and McClendon feels getting on a roll at Safeco is critical.
"This is our house and we need to protect it," he said. "We haven't done as good a job as we should here at home, but I think we'll get better. I think the guys are starting to get comfortable and it's starting to warm up a little bit. We protect our home turf and play a little over .500 on the road, we'll be OK."