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Padres ride Young's gem past Rockies
05/31/2006 2:02 AM ET
SAN DIEGO -- With late life on his fastball, and curveballs, sliders and changeups that kept hitters off balance, Chris Young put it all together on Tuesday night, pitching the game of his young professional life at PETCO Park while driving his Padres to a 2-0 decision over the Rockies.

Young took a no-hitter into the eighth inning before Brad Hawpe -- one of his oldest friends in baseball -- lined a first-pitch slider up in the strike zone into the right-field corner for a double, fair by about five feet.

Young gathered himself after a meeting at the mound with pitching coach Darren Balsley and retired the side, the Padres held on in front of 23,698 fans with Trevor Hoffman pitching the ninth inning for his 10th save in 10 chances.

"It was the first time this season I felt like I had four pitches I could throw when I wanted, where I wanted," Young said, having gone to 4-3 in outdueling Aaron Cook (5-5). "I got away with a few mistakes. It was one of those nights when things went my way."

Young tied a career high with eight strikeouts when he fanned pinch-hitters Jason Smith and Ryan Spilborghs to end the eighth, stranding Hawpe at second. He said he tried not to dwell on the prospect of throwing what would have been the first no-hitter in Padres history -- a fact he said he was unaware of until after the game.

"I tried not to focus on it," Young said. "Obviously, it was in the back of my mind, but I just wanted to preserve the lead. I'd give up 15 hits to get a win."

Young, 26 and in his sixth professional season, had thrown a no-hitter in high school as a Dallas teen. "But that was only seven innings, so it didn't really count," he said, grinning.

The man who broke it up knows the 6-foot-10 right-hander's stuff about as well as anybody. Hawpe and Young began playing against each other and then together around age 15 in Texas summer leagues and in high school.

"Brad Hawpe's a great hitter," Young said. "He's actually a buddy of mine. We grew up together playing in Texas. I'll probably see him on the field [Wednesday] and have something to say to him."

Mike Piazza, who caught no-hitters by Hideo Nomo and Ramon Martinez while with the Dodgers, thought Young had the right stuff to make it happen after Mike Cameron went to the wall in deepest left-center to take extra bases away from Todd Helton leading off the seventh.

Young called it "an unbelievable play," and Cameron, in his understated fashion, said, "I just went after it and tried to make a play."

After Young retired Matt Holliday and Garrett Atkins to finish the seventh, the tension was building in the dugout, where Piazza kept to baseball's time-honored tradition and left his pitcher alone with his thoughts.

"That gets pretty intense when you're getting that deep in a game and haven't given up a hit," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "We needed a great effort and got it. What a great game by Chris."

Piazza, naturally, second-guessed a few pitches, but Young lavished praise on the veteran receiver, calling Piazza's work "awesome."

"I'm a little frustrated with pitch selection with their hitters," Piazza said. "You always second-guess after a game like this. Chris basically was in command with what he wanted to do -- he had great command and threw his pitches with conviction.

"There was a little letdown after the hit, but, fortunately, it didn't translate into runs and we won the game."

Colorado came into the game having scored 37 runs in four previous games at PETCO Park this season, winning all four.

The Padres scored single runs in the third and fourth innings against Cook. Dave Roberts' single delivered Geoff Blum in the third, and Khalil Greene's two-out triple scored Piazza in the fourth.

The Rockies turned double plays in both innings to disrupt what could have been bigger things from a Padres offense that generated 10 hits -- two apiece by Brian Giles, Adrian Gonzalez and Blum.

Young, a Dallas native who starred for Princeton's basketball team and turned down an offer to join the NBA's Sacramento Kings, was acquired from the Rangers in a six-player winter blockbuster. He was coming off the most ineffective of his 11 starts for the Padres, lasting only three innings while giving up six runs (including three homers) in a loss to Atlanta.

This was Young's 49th Major League start. He's never thrown a complete game, and, having thrown 110 pitches -- 79 strikes -- didn't question Bochy's decision to call on Hoffman to start the ninth.

"Trevor's the best in the business," Young said of the man who has 446 career saves, 32 shy of all-time leader Lee Smith. "Definitely, it was the best move for the team. He's one closer to Lee Smith -- it's fun to be part of that as well."

Hearts were racing as the dangerous Holliday, a .330 hitter, lifted a towering fly down the left-field line with two outs and Helton having singled. But Roberts backed into the corner to make the catch for the final out.

"It got interesting," Bochy said. "Holliday's having a great year. But I knew the ball was foul. In fact, I didn't think Roberts would catch it."

Young had retired the first 14 Rockies when he walked Helton with two outs in the fourth, and then he walked Holliday before retiring Atkins on a fly ball. In excellent rhythm, pounding fastballs with sliders and slow curves keeping hitters off balance, Young struck out a pair of hitters in each of the fifth and sixth innings.

"I've seen him blow guys away with 90-mph fastballs," Piazza said. "They're not Billy Wagner-type fastballs, but they're not straight 90 fastballs either. He's got late life -- it just kind of jumps at the last moment. It's tough to feel for as a hitter. Part of it is the leverage he gets, being so tall."

It was the big man's big night. And the best part is, for the Padres and their fans, it could be just the start of something even bigger.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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