On March 7, 35-year-old pitcher Chris Young signed a one year contract with the Kansas City Royals worth a measly $675,000. Despite being the American League Comeback Player of the Year in 2014 after a great season with the Seattle Mariners, Young commanded no interest while on the free agent market. Dayton Moore's reasoning for signing Young was quite simply, "why not?"
As the 2015 season comes to a close with the Royals among baseball's best squads, 29 teams are kicking themselves for not going after Young. Young threw 6.1 terrific innings for Kansas City on Friday night, leading the Royals past the Twins, 3-1. Though he did not earn the win, Young provided the team with an excellent start, just as he's done so many times this year.
Minnesota scratched Young with a second-inning run, but the Royals snatched it back in the top of the third. Jarrod Dyson led off with a double, eventually scoring on an Eric Hosmer fielder's choice. Hosmer's 92nd RBI of the year continued to extend his season high.
The game remained deadlocked until the late innings. Young and Twins starter Ervin Santana were locked into a duel. The offenses combined for just one hit from the bottom of the third through the end of the seventh. Minnesota manager Paul Molitor elected to send Santana back to the hill for the eighth inning, despite a pitch count of 106. That decision wound up to be very costly.
Alcides Escobar led off the inning with a single. Molitor yanked Santana and inserted All Star closer Glen Perkins, who has been a disaster as of late. This inning would be no different, as Ben Zobrist walloped the first pitch he saw from the left-hander over the head of center fielder Aaron Hicks. Escobar zoomed home to break the tie, and two batters later, Zobrist scored on an RBI single by Mike Moustakas.
The Royals would squander scoring chances later in the eighth and again in the ninth innings, but it didn't matter because of the bullpen. When Young issued a one-out walk in the bottom of the seventh, Ned Yost signaled for Louis Coleman, who hadn't pitched since September 13. Showing no rust, Coleman induced a double play to get out of the inning. When the Royals took the lead in the next frame, it earned Coleman (1-0) his first win of the season.
Ryan Madson and Wade Davis handled the eighth and ninth innings to close out the game. The former worked around two hits to get out of a nerve-wracking inning, while Davis coasted through the game's final frame, retiring all three batters he faced. The contest concluded when Davis caught Torii Hunter looking at strike three on a nasty cutter. Davis earned his 16th save of the season, improving him to a perfect 19-for-19 in career save opportunities.
Suddenly, Royals' starting pitchers have strung together five straight quality starts, and that doesn't even include Young's five hitless innings from Sunday. It's been a full week since the last rocky start by a Kansas City starter.
The win gave the Royals their third straight victory - something that hasn't happened since August 29, a span of 31 games. Kansas City kept pace with the Blue Jays, who won on Friday night in Tampa, to remain in a tie for homefield advantage. At 93-67, the Royals have won more games in one year than they have since 1980, when they were 97-65.
What a year, man.
Speaking of great years, Chris Young's 2015 regular season concludes with these stats: a record of 11-6, 123.1 innings, an ERA of 3.06, an opposing batting average of .202, and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 83:43. His 2.3 WAR mark is tied with Edinson Volquez for the best among the team's starting pitchers. He set the team record for lowest BABIP (batting average of balls in play) in a season, minimum 100 innings. That record had stood for 43 years.
Oh, and did anybody mention that he's making just $675,000 this year? To put that in perspective, Jeff Samardzija and his 4.96 ERA got paid over $300,000 per start. While the comparison may not be totally fair, Felix Hernandez, Young's teammate last year, averaged over $800,000 per start. His ERA was a full run higher than Young's. Will Chris Young pitch in the playoff rotation? All I'm saying is that at this point, it's very hard to say he shouldn't.
Two regular season games remain for the Royals, who continue the series tomorrow afternoon at 12:05 central time. Yordano Ventura will oppose Tommy Milone in his final tuneup before starting game one of Thursday's ALDS at Kauffman Stadium.