Chris Young walked off the mound on Sunday to the adulation of the fans at Kauffman Stadium and the awe of his Royals teammates. He had thrown five hitless innings, in his first start in two months, with a grieving heart. He removed his uniform inside the clubhouse and grabbed a bag to fly home to Texas.
On Saturday night, Young learned midway through the game against Cleveland that his father, Charles, had been taken to the hospital. Charles Young died a few hours later. He was 70.
Young was “adamant” about pitching against the Indians, Yost said. He responded with a sterling performance, boosting his case to join Kansas City’s postseason rotation. In the process, he paid tribute his father.
“Last night my dad, Charles Young, passed away at the age of 70,” Young wrote in a statement relayed by a Royals official. “Today, I had the opportunity to honor him playing a game we both love, alongside my baseball family. I felt him next to me with every pitch. I am grateful for the support of my teammates, coaches and the entire Royals organization during this difficult time. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.”
His teammates expressed their sympathy for Young on both Saturday and Sunday. To a man, those asked sounded amazed at his capacity for steeliness on the mound.
“The way he went out here and did what he did today, it’s unbelievable,” said third baseman Mike Moustakas, who lost his mother earlier this summer. “It’s a special performance. All our hearts are with him. It’s just unbelievable what he was able to accomplish on a day like today.”
Added outfielder Lorenzo Cain: “I found out when I got here this morning. My heart goes out to him and his family. It was definitely an emotional game for him, so for him to go out and pitch the way he did, it was definitely impressive.”
Yost expected Young to throw between 60 to 70 pitches on Sunday. Young was starting in the place of Jeremy Guthrie, who was battered in his last outing. After Young learned about his father’s death, he told Yost he still wanted to take the ball. He could do the same for this team in October.
The day before, Kris Medlen failed to complete the fourth inning. Cleveland walloped him for six runs. He could not drive the baseball low in the strike zone, which is critical to his success. In his past three outings, his command has been slipshod.
Yost has shied away from committing to any set playoff rotation. He stressed, on several occasions before Sunday’s game, that the team was sifting through their options. He does recognize the unpredictability of Medlen as he recovers from his second elbow reconstruction.
“The last three starts, he’s struggle with his command,” Yost said. “That’s probably normal when a guy’s coming back from Tommy John and getting back into the swing of things.”
Young suffered no ill effects from his lengthy layoff. He operated with efficiency, allowing the Indians to swat flyballs contained by Kauffman Stadium. He did not let a man on base until walking outfielder Michael Brantley with two outs in the fourth. Young induced a grounder by first baseman Carlos Santana to end the inning.
After that frame, Young told Yost he possessed the capability for completing one more inning. The Royals gave it to him. Young departed afterward, sent off with hugs from teammates like Moustakas. He is expected to rejoin the team before the playoffs.
“To go out with that on his heart and throw five innings of no-hit baseball was unbelievable,” Yost said.