Young appears back on track; D-backs, too?

July 22, 2012

PHOENIX -- On Family Day at Chase Field on Sunday, Chris Young brought his English bulldog -- named Prince Superman Young -- into the clubhouse following another big win over the Astros.
It made for some nice symbolism. Young has brought some bulldog to the park himself recently, and he appears to be returning to the form that made him one of the most feared hitters in the National League the first 10 days of the season but has taken some time to regain after a shoulder injury put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career.
“You trust that if you continue to get your work in, everything will be all right,” Young said.
Young’s three-run home run in a seven-run sixth inning was the game-decider in an 8-2 victory over the Astros, giving the D-backs (47-48) a three-game sweep and pulling them within one game of .500 for the first time since the All-Star break.
Young has four doubles, two homers and six RBIs in his last seven games, numbers that could cause a shudder to the rest of the NL playoff contenders as the extended stretch run begins.
As manager Kirk Gibson understands full well, it is never easy returning from an injury, especially when your presence is requested ASAP.
“He was on such a roll when he went out," Gibson said. "I told you guys I thought he came back a little too early, but we asked him to. That’s the kind of guy he is, the kind of teammate he is.
“He’s tried to get back to where he was. He's slowly fought his way through. He's not going to run from anything. He wouldn't tell you if he was hurt. You have to figure it out for yourself. He doesn’t care how bad things are in the field at the plate; he just would never give in.”
Gibson said some of Young’s recent success is due to a technical adjustment that enables him to stay on pitches on the outside corner better, but Young said it has just as much to do with slowing the game down and letting it come to him.
“I’m seeing the ball a little better. Recognizing pitches early, getting more consistent at-bats and just trying to take advantage of them. Just trying to relax and have fun and play the game,” Young said.
Young is the D-backs’ best defensive outfielder as it is, and his bat would only lengthen a lineup that battered the Astros pitching staff for 33 runs and 40 hits, batted around four times and scored at least four runs in four different innings.
Jason Kubel hit another home run Sunday, his fourth in six at-bats, and Josh Collmenter made his third consecutive quality start as he returned to the rotation in place of Trevor Bauer, who was optioned to Class AAA Reno earlier in the week.
Kubel’s home run in the second inning hugged the right-field foul pole and enabled him to maintain his NL RBI lead with 71, two more than the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran.
"Those guys kind of laugh on the bench about Kubel," Gibson said.
Added Young: "There’s nothing funny at all about it. It’s scary."
The D-backs handled the last-place Astros the way a playoff contender should, a welcome reversal after they were swept by the two previous last-place teams they faced, the Padres the week before the All-Star break and the Cubs the first series back.
"We’re on a bit of a roll," Gibson said. "We want to continue to roll on this. We want to get above .500. We know when we come off this homestand, it is very important that we get over .500. We are just going to keep pushing that way.
Said Young: "By no means are we out of it or in it, either way. We just have to keep doing what we are doing."
The D-backs, six games behind the NL West-leading Giants, gained 1 ½ games in the wild-card race with the sweep, and they finish the 10-game homestand with a three-game series against the Rockies and a four-gamer against the Mets. Sights are set high.
“We knew coming in, playing Houston and Colorado, two of the teams that have been scuffling ... and the Mets haven’t been playing as well as they have been early on ... we knew if we could get maybe seven or eight games out of this homsteand, that would put us in a good position,” Collmenter said.
“Then it would be a showdown in September with all the division games, and hopefully we’re in a good position to attack.”
Collmenter, 2-2, continued an impressive run that began when he was moved to the bullpen in early May after giving up 20 runs in his first four starts of the season. Collmenter is 2-0 with a 1.51 ERA in his last 15 appearances, including three starts, and he has 45 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. He made two quality starts the first week of July while Joe Saunders was on the disabled list, and he threw three scoreless innings after replacing Bauer in a 4-0 loss in Cincinnati last Tuesday.
"Huge," Gibson described Collmenter’s impact.
"How do I describe him? He’s really hard to rattle in situations. They got runs, but he cut it off. That’s the thing that he is pretty good at. How does he get people out? It’s because he has conviction in his pitches. He gets them where he wants them to go.

"His pace is good, too. He’s fast. He doesn’t labor around. He’s in control of the game."