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The Road Warrior Keeps San Diego Alive

After the first two games of the NLDS between the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals, it looked as though St. Louis would be walking away with an easy victory. The Redbirds dominated the Friars in San Diego, much to the chagrin of Padres fans everywhere, and much to the delight of Cardinals fans who want to see their team in the World Series for the first time since being swept by the Red Sox in 2004.

Chris Young loves pitching away from Petco Park

The problem for the Cardinals in their bid to sweep the Series was that they would have to defeat a guy who hasn’t lost on the road all year. That guy is Chris Young, who stands an extremely intimidating 6feet-10inches high on the mound, and is even more intimidating when Petco Park is not the venue.

Let’s discuss Game 3 in particular first, before I go into just how impressive Chris Young has been on the road in 2006.

With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Padres went into St. Louis with an oddly high amount of confidence. Centerfielder Dave Roberts said “we can still do it” as he entered the visitors clubhouse at Busch Stadium. Of course, Roberts has probably believed in miracles ever since the Red Sox came back from 3-0 down in the ALCS two years ago.

Russell Branyan (now with the Padres) drove in the winning run on a 2-run double in the 4th inning


The game was quiet on both sides for the first three innings. San Diego was the first to come out of its scoring drought, with a single by Adrian Gonzalez, a walk drawn by Mike Cameron, a 2-RBI double by Russell Branyan, and a sacrifice fly by Geoff Blum. In fact, those 3 runs would be the only ones to cross the plate for the Padres. The Cardinals bullpen held them in check for the remainder of the game, though that effort was meaningless, because of the Padres’starting pitcher’s effort.

So Taguchi’s solo shot was the Cardinals’ only run


The Cardinals were conquered by Chris Young for 6.2 innings. Four hits and two walks was all the Redbirds could muster off Young, who also sent 9 Cardinals batters down on strikes. St. Louis finally broke through in the 8th inning against Scott Linebrink, on a solo homerun by So Taguchi to lead off the inning. With the score at 3-1 in favor of San Diego, Trevor Hoffman pitched a scoreless 9th inning to earn yet another save, and potentially better his NL Cy Young candidacy. The Cardinals only had 5 hits in the game, while being K’d 11 times, and making 2 defensive errors — that’s a recipe for disaster, not a plan to clinch a playoff series.

Final Score: Padres 3 Cardinals 1

Pitchers of Record:

W: Chris Young

L: Jeff Suppan

S: Trevor Hoffman

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

There are three possible expanations for Chris Young’s success this season…

  1. He turns opposing fans’ heckles into pitching energy and thrives in hostile environments — using heckles to your advantage or just ignoring them is a huge part of pitching on the road
  2. Chris Young would be Cy Young if he didn’t ever have to pitch at home — he seems to do well everywhere else he goes
  3. He listens to Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” a hundred times before every road start to get psyched up for it — hey, it’s possible…

But realistically, the most likely explanation is a combination of #1 and #2. Here’s why…

Chris Young went 6-0 with a 2.41ERA on the road during the regular season. At home, he was 5-5 with a 4.60ERA. Why the heck would those two ERA figures be so different — after all, Petco Park is no Coors Field? Well, perhaps Young is just better suited to pitch on the road, where he held opponents to a measly .176 batting average and .569OPS. Or perhaps Petco Park’s dimensions hurt the young righthander, who allowed a .774OPS at home this season — a very high number compared to his .238 batting average against at home in 2006. The most likely culprit, as I said, is a combination of the two.

The Padres probably wish that Chris Young could pitch Game 4 as well, but they’ll have to settle for former Redbird Woody Williams, who is actually a much better pitcher at Petco Park (2.93ERA at home/4.29ERA away). Perhaps Young will give the veteran Williams some pointers before he takes the mound, to try and even the series for the Padres.

_______________________________________________________________

TRIVIA!

The correct answer to yesterday’s question…

Q: The last time the A’s won the World Series was 1989, when they swept the Giants in the Series that was delayed 10 days because of the earthquake at the beginning of Game 3. The delay allowed both teams to use just 2 starting pitchers in the Series. Can you name both of Oakland’s starters?

A: Dave Stewart and Mike Moore. Stewart was also the MVP of that Series.

Today’s question is…

Woody Williams has pitched for several teams in his MLB career. With which club did he make his MLB debut in 1993?

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