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Padres' Young went from hardwood to mound mastery

If Chris Young hadn't signed a professional baseball contract seven years ago, odds are he'd probably still be helping fantasy owners.

But it's hard to believe he could have developed into a more dominant NBA player than he's been on the mound for the San Diego Padres.

Young and teammate Jake Peavy went into the All-Star break with the two best earned run averages in the majors -- Young at 2.00 and Peavy at 2.19. Young is now 9-3 with a 1.85 ERA and Peavy is 9-4, 2.30.

In the past 25 years, only four teams have had pitchers finish 1-2 in their respective leagues in ERA -- Houston's Roger Clemens (13-8, 1.87) and Andy Pettitte (17-9, 2.39) in 2005; Boston's Pedro Martinez (20-4, 2.26) and Derek Lowe (21-8, 2.58) in 2002; Arizona's Randy Johnson (21-6, 2.49) and Curt Schilling (22-6, 2.98) in 2001; and Toronto's Juan Guzman (11-8, 2.93) and Pat Hentgen (20-10, 3.22) in 1996.

Since those eight pitchers compiled an average record of 18-7 in those seasons, the second half of the year would seem to hold nothing but good things in store for the Padres tandem.

Peavy, who led the National League with a 2.27 ERA in 2004, became the first San Diego pitcher to do it since lefty Randy Jones, who went 20-12 with a 2.24 ERA in 1975. Peavy was rated one of the premier fantasy pitching options despite a poor 2006 season (11-14, 4.09).

Though Young hasn't yet captured an ERA title, the 28-year-old right-hander who stands 6-foot-10 has already done some amazing things in the big leagues despite the fact he's been traded away by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Montreal Expos and pitching-starved Texas Rangers. Still, his average draft position in ESPN.com fantasy leagues was No. 110.

Young went 25 straight road starts without losing, a streak that was snapped April 15 when the Dodgers beat the Padres, 9-3. That night, Young allowed four earned runs on seven hits and an uncharacteristic five walks in just two innings.

Allie Reynolds, who went a combined 33-13 in 1948-49, had a 25-game road unbeaten streak with the New York Yankees during that two-year span.

Last season, when Young went 11-5, he was the major league leader in both opponent batting average (.206) and road ERA (2.41).

Had he decided to concentrate on hoops, NBA scouts rated Young as a potential first-round draft pick.

Even after he'd signed a baseball contract, fellow Princeton University graduate Geoff Petrie, the president of the Sacramento Kings, offered Young an NBA deal.

In two varsity basketball seasons with the Tigers, Young averaged 13.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.4 blocked shots and made 33.1 percent of his 136 three-point attempts while starting all 60 games he played.

An excellent shooter and passer, expertly able to operate the patient Princeton offense from the high post, Young had some memorable moments on the court. During his freshman season of 1998-99, Princeton beat Penn, 50-49, in the Palestra after having trailed, 41-15, with 15 minutes to go. It was the fifth-best comeback in NCAA history and fueled by Young, who hit a three-pointer, a hook shot and a jumper from the foul line in the last five minutes after having gone 0 for 8 from the field in the first half.

He scored 24 points to help the Tigers overcome a 27-point deficit against North Carolina State in the 1999 National Invitation Tournament and was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year in both basketball and baseball, becoming the first male in league history to do it in two different sports.

He was a first-team All-Ivy as a sophomore and a second-teamer as a freshman. In 1999-2000 his 3.0 blocked shots per game led the league, ranking 13th in nation. He also finished among the top 10 in the Ivy in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, steals, assists and blocks.

How did he handle the rigors of two varsity sports plus the strict academic demands at Princeton? He attended classes in the morning and early afternoon, played basketball from about 4:30 to 8 p.m., pitched in the gym from 9 to 10, studied at his dorm at 10:30 and fell asleep at about 2 a.m.
In August 2000, he signed with the Pirates after being a third-round draft choice. That ended both his collegiate baseball and basketball careers because the Ivy League does not allow a player to retain amateur status in one sport while playing as a professional in another.

It didn't end his academic career, however. While riding buses as a minor-league player for the Hickory Crawdads, Young completed his senior thesis, "The Impact of Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball on Racial Stereotypes in America: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Stories about Race in the New York Times."

He also found time to marry the former Elizabeth Patrick, the granddaughter of Lester Patrick -- the namesake of the National Hockey League's former Patrick Division and the Lester Patrick Trophy, which is awarded for outstanding contributions to hockey in the United States.

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>Heavy hitters meet

This week features a pair of American League matchups that are potential playoff pairings. The Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians play a four-game series starting Monday at Jacobs Field and the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim play three starting Friday on the West Coast.

Boston is 2-1 against Cleveland this year and leads the series, 24-23, since 2001. Tribe catcher Victor Martinez is 31 for 93 (.333) with five doubles, six homers, 28 RBIs and a .581 slugging average in his career against the Bosox. Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia is 6 for 9 (.667) with two doubles, an RBI and an .889 slugging average against the Tribe this season.

Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez feasts on the Angels. Detroit is 3-2 in the series this season thanks to Ordonez, who is 13 for 19 (.684) with four doubles, four homers, 11 RBIs and a 1.526 slugging average in those games. He boasts a career .332 batting average and .611 slugging percentage against the Angels. Los Angeles shortstop Orlando Cabrera is 9 for 20 (.450) with two homers, seven RBIs and an .800 slugging average against the Tigers this season.

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>Start your engines

Today's Honda 200 (1:30 p.m., Ch. 7; Radio 550 AM) is the inaugural IndyCar Series event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington. The fact it is a road course bodes well for 20-year-old Marco Andretti, who will start from the fourth position today behind Helio Castroneves, Danica Patrick and Tony Kanaan.

Two weeks ago at Watkins Glen, Andretti won $59,400 for his fifth-place finish. Last Aug. 27, Andretti became the youngest winner of a major open-wheel series race with his victory at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

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