SAN DIEGO -- Whether Chris Young was nervous or not on Friday night, just two outs shy of throwing a no-hitter, his teammates had enough butterflies to go around for the right-hander. "When it started coming down to the wire -- I don't know. I might have been more nervous than he was. I wanted it for him so bad," said fellow starter Clay Hensley before Saturday's game against the Pirates. "It wasn't just the fact that he was [throwing] the no-hitter, but the energy of the ballpark with the fans and everyone. That was fun."
Young seemed to have everything going for him on Friday night, getting Pirates hitters to swing early in the count, breezing through innings on as little as six pitches. He did not allow a baserunner through 5 2/3 innings. He struck out six Pirates on Friday, the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft. Had the 27-year-old Texan been able to accomplish the feat, it would have been the first no-no in Padres history. Young has been close two other times this season to keeping opposing teams hitless, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning on May 30 against Colorado, and then going into the sixth in Pittsburgh on the very next outing. On Friday, the 6-foot-10 Young was taken out with one out remaining in the ninth, when rookie reliever Cla Meredith came in to finish the job, lowering his ERA to .79 when he struck out Freddy Sanchez to end the game with a 6-2 win. The win also kept the Padres a half-game ahead of the Dodgers in the National League West. "He did a great job. The situation it came in -- being in a pennant race and having to win every game. I think that makes it even more special," said Padres second baseman Josh Barfield, who made a key defensive play in the second inning to rob Xavier Nady of a line drive single up the middle. "He's so tough. For a guy that big to be able to be that consistent with his control and his mechanics, I think that says a lot about him. He just challenges you. As a position player, that's something you respect a lot. He comes right at you." Pitching: Young and the rest of his colleagues on the pitching staff have formed one of the top staffs in baseball this season. They have allowed the fewest earned runs in the National League with 602, and their 642 runs allowed overall is also the best in the league. San Diego's pitchers are second to the Marlins staff (89) with 83 quality starts in 2006. "They've been good all year. Without them, we're way under .500 and not where we are right now," Barfield said. "That's why I think if we get into the playoffs we'll be a tough team to beat, because of our pitching staff." Catching: Pitching staffs are measured by their numbers, but catchers rarely get enough credit for a staff's success. The Padres enjoy having a future Hall of Famer behind the plate on most days, and San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said Mike Piazza doesn't get near the credit he deserves for his handling of the pitching staff. Bochy also liked the way Piazza worked with Young on Friday night in pursuit of the no-hitter. Piazza caught two no-hitters while with the Dodgers, and Young praised his batterymate on Friday, saying he didn't remember shaking Piazza off one time. "They work well together. From Day 1, they have worked well together," said Bochy. "Not that they agree all the time, but I know Chris likes throwing to him." Hoffman up for reliever of the year: Padres closer Trevor Hoffman finds himself two saves shy of the all-time saves record at the start of action on Saturday. Fans can vote to make the 38-year-old the DHL Delivery Man of the Year, by voting on MLB.com for Hoffman from Monday to Oct. 9. The winner will be awarded during the postseason, with other finalists being Bobby Jenks of the White Sox, Joe Nathan of the Twins, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels, B.J. Ryan of the Blue Jays, Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox, J.J. Putz of the Mariners, Billy Wagner of the Mets, and Joel Zumaya of the Tigers. Through Saturday, Hoffman had recorded 41 saves in 46 save opportunities, with a 2.02 ERA. Coming up: In the final 2006 regular-season game at PETCO Park, Hensley (10-11, 3.81 ERA) will take the mound against right-hander Marty McLeary (1-0, 4.76 ERA), a former Padre who will be making his first career start. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. PT on Sunday.
Amanda Branam is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.