Former Padres starter Chris Young has done his best phoenix impression this season, posting a 12-7 record and 3.35 ERA with Seattle after over a year away from the majors. It's also his first season without missing time to injury since his All-Star season of 2007. Around the time I was looking at those numbers on his Baseball Reference page, I noticed another number that was surprising to me. The number was one, and it was in his career stats line in the CG column. Since he seemingly had 82 near-no-hitters, I figured he would have finished a few of them. As is the case with so many other things, I was wrong.
Young's lone complete game came during his Padres days, back in 2008. As you may recall, 2008 was a disappointing season for the Padres as a whole and for Young personally. By the time September 7 rolled around, the team was buried in the cellar with a 54-88 record, and Young was 4-5 with a 4.91 ERA and making just his fifteenth start, having already spent two stretches on the disabled list. Young and a young Padres lineup were tasked with taking on an 82-60 Brewers team in Milwaukee.
Rookie Brewers starter Manny Parra, who entered the game with a 10-6 record and a 4.10 ERA, retired the first three Padres batters with 11 pitches. Unfazed, Young promptly took down the top of the Brewers' order with just nine. San Diego got their first baserunner in the second inning on a single by rookie catcher Nick Hundley, but Milwaukee had no such luck.
After retiring the heart of the Brewers' order in the second, Young had no time to rest. He came to bat second in the top of the third inning and lined a 1-1 pitch to deep right-center for a one-out double. Young held tight at second base as Matt Antonelli reached on an error by shortstop J.J. Hardy, then moved to third as a walk by Chip Ambres loaded the bases. Young came home with the game's first run, followed by Antonelli with the second as the Brewers committed their second error of the inning. Singles by Adrian Gonzalez and Will Venable, who was just one week removed from his major league debut, gave the Padres a 5-0 lead. After flying out for the third out in his second at-bat of the frame, Young headed back to the hill.
Despite all that time on the bases and on the bench watching his teammates give him run support, Young didn't miss a beat. He retired the side in the bottom of the third, striking out his first two batters of the game. The two teams both went down 1-2-3 in the fourth, then rookie left fielder Chase Headley tacked on some insurance in the fifth with his ninth home run of the year. Milwaukee went down in order in the bottom of the frame, and again in a sixth inning which was uneventful for both teams.
Kevin Kouzmanoff ensured the seventh inning wouldn't be uneventful when he drove David Riske's second pitch deep to left for his twenty-first homer of the season. Following hits by Gonzalez and Headley, Nick Hundley lifted a sac fly to left fielder Ryan Braun for the Padres' seventh run. Following a walk to Will Venable, Sean Kazmar drove Headley home with a double, the only extra-base hit of his career. Young then hit a sac fly of his own for his first RBI of the season and San Diego's tenth run of the game.
The bottom of the seventh inning went down like the bottom of every other inning to that point, with the Brewers heading back to the home dugout in order. Milwaukee reliever Mark DiFelice made quick work of the Padres in the top of the eighth, and Young picked up right where he left off. He got Prince Fielder to pop up on the first pitch, and Corey Hart to do the same on the second. Gabe Kapler stepped in, took a ball, and found the second pitch more to his liking. He hit it hard and hit it deep...
Goodbye, perfect game.
But not 'Goodbye, complete game'! Young shook it off and got Bill Hall to line softly back to him for the third out of the inning. Having thrown just 81 pitches through eight complete innings, Young went back out for the ninth for just the second time in 114 starts to date (the first was when Joe Randa, then with Pittsburgh, ended Young's September 22, 2006 no-hit bid with a one-out homer in the top of the ninth). Young retired pinch-hitter Tony Gwynn, Jr. for the first out of the ninth before surrendering a double to another pinch-hitter, Mat Gamel. He left Gamel stranded at second as he recorded his fourth and fifth strikeouts of the game to tie a bow on his first and, so far, only complete game. Young finished his day with two hits, no walks, and a run on 96 pitches, 66 of which were good for strikes.
In the six years since that 10-1 blowout, Young has yet to again take the mound during the ninth inning of a game. In fact, he has lasted longer than seven innings only once, when he allowed just three hits and a run over eight complete innings this May 10 against Kansas City, throwing 60 of his 93 pitches for strikes on his way to his third win of the season.