Padres MLN: Coming up empty

Chris Young

Peoria, AZ – Major Leaguer Chris Young no-hit the Royals through four innings, but the Padres' failure to execute with runners on base prevented all but a single San Diego run in a 4-1 loss to Kansas City.

Chris Young pitched a one-two-three first and second, whiffing two batters. His slider was particularly impressive. Appearing to be a fastball when it leaves his glove, the slider catches most right-handed batters hacking away at a pitch that tails away from them. Instead of pounding the ball with the sweet spot of the bat, they make contact only with the tail end of the barrel, affording the Padres routine 6-3 or 5-3 ground-ball outs.

The Royals threatened in the top of the third inning when Richard Lewis reached on a throwing error by third baseman Royce Huffman. After Lewis stole second, Jace Brewer walked to put base-runners on first and second. But shortstop Luis Cruz nabbed a line drive and stepped on second for an inning-ending double play, and the Royals stranded two in what continued to be a solid outing for Young.

After another one-two-three inning in the fourth, Young's control escaped him. Craig Brazell lined a slider that stayed up in the zone for a double to right field and Graham Koonce drew a four-pitch walk on low fastballs to put runners on first and second. A wild pitch by Young allowed both to advance, and a second walk to Richard Lewis loaded the bases for catcher Matt Tupman. Tupman hit a hard grounder back to the mound, but Young's errant throw home allowed Brazell to score and the bases to remain loaded. Fortunately, Young returned to the slider, inducing a 4-6-3 double play to end a rocky inning.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Royals tacked on three more, including one on a hard-hit ground rule double to the right-field warning track by Craig Brazell, before the Padres replaced Young with lefty Adrian Burnside. Burnside pitched one and a third scoreless innings, inducing a double play on a fastball that hit 94 on the radar gun to erase his only base-runner.

After left-hander Frank Brooks pitched a perfect eighth, Roger Deago kept the Royals at bay in the top of the ninth, relying on a mid-70s changeup and a formidable high-60s curveball. Though Deago gave up two hits, both were fortuitous for the Royals, an infield hit just out of Luis Cruz's range and a blooper the sailed over the head of Craig Stansberry.

The Padres suffered on offense, their only run coming in the bottom of the first when Tyler Lumsden walked Michael Johnson with bases loaded. Again suffering with runners in scoring position, the Padres stranded three in the first before Peter Ciofrone was thrown out at the plate to end the second. In the following inning, Adam Shabala committed a base-running error, getting caught in a rundown while trying to steal on a ball in the dirt, erasing a leadoff base-runner.

Despite an offensive draught that turned into full-fledged famine with runners on base, a few Padres are deserving of mention. Young executed a bluff-bunt with perfection; he showed bunt but pulled back just enough to drill a single past the Kansas City shortstop, giving the Padres two on with nobody out. Michael Johnson nullified Young's efforts when he grounded into a double play in the next at bat.

Josh Howard initially had trouble picking up the ball from pitcher Wayne Franklin, who keeps the ball well hidden until the tail end of his delivery. But Howard adjusted well, tweaking his batting stance just enough to keep his eye on the ball, and laced a hard grounder up the middle for a single.

The Padres made one final push in the bottom of the ninth. Jack Cust swung at the first pitch and pounded it into center field for a long single. After Justin Hatcher flew out, Huffman supplied the most patient at-bat of the night, laying off several inside fastballs and fighting off several others before drawing a walk, his second base-on-balls of the game. Johnson grounded into a 3-6-1 double play to end the game.

Notes:

Shabala was struck in the back by an errant throw to second by Tupman. Shabala appeared to be shaken up initially but stayed in the game and showed no ill effects thereafter.

Brooks lacked fastball velocity, but he threw strikes consistently and utilized the whole zone, even with his curveball. In his perfect eighth inning, he retired two Royals on ground outs and one on a fly out.

-Brad Honigman

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