Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Winning Pitcher Chris Young

This was a few days before Chris Young became the winning pitcher in an epic Game 1 of the World Series.

Scott Bradley was on the treadmill in the Princeton Varsity Club weightroom, which is where he usually is these days. TigerBlog was on the exercise bike a few feet away.

This was last Friday, to be exact. The Kansas City Royals hadn't yet clinched the American League pennant, but Bradley, Princeton's baseball coach, was making plans to go to the first two games of the World Series.

Why go to the Midwest when the New York Mets were the National League champ? It would be easier, Bradley said, to get to the stadium in KC than to Citi Field.

Then there was Monday. As Bradley prepared to leave, TigerBlog had a brief conversation with him on the Jadwin Gym balcony.

Young, who had pitched for Bradley at Princeton, is Kansas City's fourth starter. Royals manager Ned Yost had just announced that Young would pitch Game 4, but Bradley thought there might be a chance that he might get into Game 1 in relief, depending on the situation.

Bradley probably thought the situation was something like 4-4 in the fifth inning. You know, if the starter couldn't get to the bullpen and the Royals needed a bridge.

Or maybe 4-4 in the 12th. That was the other possibility, and that's exactly how it played out.

There was Young, brought out of the bullpen in the top of the 12th, with the score tied 4-4 after Alex Gordon's home run had tied it in the bottom of the ninth.

And now it was all on Young. Forget Game 4. This was his moment.

TigerBlog slept through innings six to nine, woke up to hear Gordon's home run, and then fell asleep again until the 11th. Then it was time for Young, and TB was wide awake.

This wasn't going to be an easy 12th for the big righthander. He would have to face the scorchingly hot Daniel Murphy, followed by Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda, all in the World Series, by the way.

So what did he do? Struck out Murphy. Struck out Cespedes. Struck out Duda.

KC loaded the bases in the bottom of the 12th but couldn't score, so back came Young. At this point, it was Young for Kansas City and Bartolo Colon for the Mets, and the two veterans were probably going to be out there until one of them won and the other lost, since both bullpens were pretty much spent.

Young got another K in the 13th, though he did walk a batter. After Colon had an easy 13th, Young went 1-2-3 in the 14th, getting Curtis Granderson, David Wright and then Murphy again.

Finally, Kansas City got a run off Colon in the 14th. Game over. Winning pitcher, Chris Young.

Along the way, there was some interesting stuff on the Fox broadcast. And on Twitter. Lots of good Twitter stuff, including someone who mentioned that the World Series was now a battle between two guys who were a combined 78 years old and 600 pounds.

For starters, Alex Rodriguez, whom TigerBlog can't stand a little bit, had some great insight into why Young - who at 6-10 doesn't throw relatively hard - is so difficult for hitters. It was good stuff.

Then there was Tom Verducci as he showed up Joe Buck, who mentioned that the Mets might go to their Game 4 starter, Steven Matz. Verducci immediately shot that down, saying Matz had thrown a simulated game the day before and that New York manager Terry Collins had said he wouldn't pitch Matz in relief. How did Buck not know that?

And Harold Reynolds mentioned that he had seen Bradley before Game 1, with Young, who figured he wouldn't be the pitcher. Reynolds had been a teammate of Bradley's in Seattle. Again, really good stuff.

There was also a great graphic, mentioning this game and the 1916 World Series game that also had gone 14 innings. This game took more than five hours and used 13 total pitchers. The 1916 game? Two pitchers, 2:30.

The only pitcher TigerBlog really cared all that much about was Young, on the very short list of TB's all-time favorite Princeton athletes.

As TB watched, he couldn't help but chuckle about how he will always think of Young as a basketball player first, how great a basketball player he was at Princeton. Had he not lost his last two years of basketball after signing his first pro baseball contract, Young would probably be known now as the second-best player in program history, behind only Bill Bradley. He certainly would have vaulted past 2,000 points had he stayed healthy for those two years, and he would have obliterated the blocked shots record while also finishing in the top three or so in rebounds and assists.

From Day 1 that TigerBlog met him, he's been impressed by his demeanor, his poise, his maturity, his warmth, his genuine warmth at that. 

TigerBlog once drove to Lakewood to see him pitch in A ball for the Hickory Crawdads, on whose buses Young had finished writing his senior thesis, something that was also brought up on the Fox broadcast.
And now here he was in the World Series. TB wonders what kind of NBA player he might have been, but none of that matters anymore. He chose the baseball route, and he chose wisely.

Yes, it was late, but TB was going to stay with this one til the end. And he really, really, didn't want to see Young lose it.

As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. Young went three hitless, not just scoreless innings.

After it was over, Young was interviewed on the Fox broadcast. He was calm and cool, just like he had been on the mound.

How long could he have gone, he was asked? As long as he had to, he replied.

After all, he said, he had waited his whole life for this chance.

And he made the most of it.

It was a great moment for him. Actually, it's one of the great moments ever for a Princeton athlete.

Chris Young, the winning pitcher in an incredible World Series game. Sounds pretty good, right?

1 comment:

George Clark said...

My favorite Chris Young memory, and I am sure it's one of yours TB, is the Rainbow Classic very early in his too-short Tiger career. The Tigers faced three big-time programs,UNC-Charlotte, Florida State, and Young's home state University of Texas, on successive nights. In the title game Young outplayed Chris Mihm, the Longhorn center who enjoyed a long NBA career, leading the Tigers to the tourney title. Happy New Year!!!