SEATTLE — Chris Young isn’t prone to self-praise. Even after a good start, the Seattle Mariners right-hander is more comfortable giving credit to anyone but himself.
Young had another opportunity to act the consummate teammate after he pitched pitching eight efficient innings Saturday night to lead the Mariners to a 3-1 win over the Kansas City Royals.
“I’m happy,” Young said. “I’m happy we won. That’s first and foremost. My goal is for the team to win the day I pitch, however it’s done.”
Young (3-0) allowed three hits, struck out three and walked none. It was the first time he threw at least eight innings since he tossed a complete game for the San Diego Padres in 2008. Young pitched sparingly in the majors from 2009-12 and missed most of last season after having surgery to address a nerve ailment that affects his shoulder.
The tall right-hander needed just 96 pitches and set down the Royals in order in five of his eight innings.
“I’ve said all along, he’s a veteran guy that knows what he’s doing, what he wants to do,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “When he’s capable of executing his pitches, he’s pretty tough.
“He’s gotten better every time out. We got to remember this guy’s coming off surgery. Very limited amount of spring training. So what he’s doing is really remarkable, to command it so early like he is.”
Fernando Rodney pitched around a two-out single in the ninth inning to record his 11th save in 12 attempts.
Justin Smoak gave Young all the run support he would need with a two-run home run to right in the fourth to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead. Smoak’s fifth home run of the season gave him 24 RBI, a number he didn’t reach last year until Aug. 1.
Dustin Ackley added a solo shot to right in the sixth inning off Royals starter Yordano Ventura.
Ventura (2-2) allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander issued a season-high four walks, while notching a season-low three strikeouts.
“You know, he threw the ball really well,” Royals skipper Ned Yost said. “The pitch to Smoak wasn’t a bad pitch, it was down and in that he got the head out on. The pitch to Ackley was a changeup that he drove into the seats. But outside of that, it was OK.”
Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders hurt himself when his foot slid in the grass near the right-field line while he was chasing a ball hit by Mike Moustakas in the top of the third inning. Saunders fell to the ground and the ball bounced over him, allowing Moustakas to reach third with a triple.
The Royals took advantage of the opportunity as Alcides Escobar followed with a sacrifice fly to left to give Kansas City a 1-0 lead.
Saunders left the game after the inning and was diagnosed with a hyperextended left knee. He is considered day to day.
The four hits tied a season-low for the Royals, who have struggled to find power during their time in Seattle. Of its 23 hits in three games thus far in the series, Kansas City has just one extra-base hit.
“So far, so good, but my goal is to help this club make the playoffs,” Young said. “My goal isn’t to make five … (or six starts). I try not to evaluate at this point. I just want to keep getting better, working hard and to keep helping the club. I feel like if I do that one game at a time, you look back, we’ll be satisfied where we are.”
• Saturday’s series finale will pit Seattle LHP Roenis Elias against Kansas City RHP Jeremy Guthrie.
• Mariners rookie James Jones hit in the leadoff spot for the first time in his career. Manager Lloyd McClendon said Jones, who hit .306 in the minors from the top spot in the lineup, is a “prototypical leadoff guy.”
• Home plate umpire Scott Barry left Saturday’s game following the third inning after appearing to take a pitch off his right hand. Crew chief Jeff Nelson took over behind the plate and the game finished with three umpires.