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Mets' Young wins NL stolen base title

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- Eric Young Jr. had no idea what awaited him when the Colorado Rockies - the only organization he'd ever played for - designated him for assignment on June 12.

He certainly couldn't have envisioned becoming one of the unlikeliest stolen base champions in history.

Young, now with the New York Mets, stole two bases in the first inning Sunday to win the National League stolen base crown. He also drove home the go-ahead run with an infield groundout in the eighth inning of the Mets' 3-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

"I just talked to him before I walked in here - he's about as high as you can get," Mets manager Terry Collins said afterward. "He ignited our offense when he got here, created excitement for the fans the way he played defensively and offensively.

"I'm just really, really excited for him. He certainly deserved it."

Young finished with 46 steals, two more than the Brewers' Jean Segura. Young won the NL crown 17 years after his father led the NL with 53 steals for the Rockies. It is the first time in history a father and son have each won a stolen base title.

"I'm sure I'll be hearing from him a little bit later tonight," Young said. "But that's pretty awesome for our family."

The two steals Sunday capped a marathon march to the title for Young, who had just eight steals in 57 games for the Rockies before he joined the Mets via a trade on June 18. At that point, the Padres' Everth Cabrera already had 31 steals while Segura had 20.

But the Mets immediately made Young their everyday left fielder and leadoff hitter, and after stealing one base in his first 11 games, he began charging up the leader board by swiping 12 bases in July, 11 in August and 13 in September.

"You don't know what to expect when you [go] to a new situation, especially when you're traded in the middle of the season like that," Young said. "I'm so thankful for everything that took place this year. Just the opportunity - that's all I can ask for. Everything else that happened is a bonus."

Young's path to the title began opening up when Cabrera, who had 37 steals through Aug. 5, was suspended for the remainder of the season due to his role in the Biogenesis scandal.

Segura appeared on his way to leading the league in steals before he suffered a right hamstring strain on Sept. 18 that cost him 10 of the Brewers' final 11 games.

Young began the season-ending four-game series two stolen bases behind Segura before he caught him with two steals in Thursday's opener.

"I wasn't really too focused on it until this last series," Young said. "Once we got here to New York and I was only two behind, I knew it was within reach."

Young went 1-for-9 from the plate without a steal attempt on Friday and Saturday, while Segura went 0-for-4 in the Brewers' 4-2 win on Saturday. But with Segura out again Sunday, Young wasted no time seizing his opportunity.

He singled on the eighth pitch of the game, took off for second on Marco Estrada's next pitch and clapped his hands upon seeing second base umpire Dale Scott call him safe.

Three pitches later, Young stole third and again clapped his hands.

"Steal third, just for good measure," Young said with a grin. "Just in case [Segura] did come in and pinch-run, he had to [steal] both [bases]."

Young then scored the Mets' first run when he raced home as right fielder Norichika Aoki caught David Wright's fly to medium left. The throw home beat Young, but he slid past the tag of Jonathan Lucroy.

"You could just tell he wanted it pretty badly," Wright said. "And to do that in really a little over half a season is pretty spectacular."

Young wasn't done impacting the game. In the fourth inning - when the Brewers scored both their runs and collected five of their six hits off Jonathon Niese - Young briefly kept the Mets ahead by throwing Jeff Bianchi out at home as he tried to score on Carlos Gomez's single.

In the eighth, Young's squibber up the first-base line scored Matt den Dekker and capped a bizarre two-run rally by the Mets, who scored the runs via two errors and two bunts.

The Mets (74-88) had just three hits against Marco Estrada and losing pitcher Brandon Kintzler. Estrada allowed just two hits and walked none while striking out eight over seven innings.

"Marco threw the ball outstanding today," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "He pitched well enough to earn a shutout today."

Sean Halton and Logan Schafer each had an RBI in the fourth inning for the Brewers, who also finished 74-88.

Vic Black (3-0), the third Mets pitcher, earned the win with a scoreless eighth. Frank Francisco threw a perfect ninth for his first save.

Niese walked two and struck out two in six innings.

NOTES: Young is the first player to win the stolen base title on the last day of the year since Luis Castillo stole three bases in the 2002 season finale to surge past Juan Pierre, 48-47, for the NL crown. ... A sellout crowd of 41,891 turned out to see the Mets induct Mike Piazza into their Hall of Fame in a pre-game ceremony. Piazza, who played for the Mets from 1998 through 2005 and ranks first in team history in slugging percentage (.542) and third in homers (220) and RBIs (655), is the 27th player enshrined in the Mets' Hall of Fame. ... The Mets improved to 27-25 in season finales while the Brewers fell to 21-24. ... The preliminary 2014 schedule has the Mets and Brewers playing a three-game series in New York from June 10-12 and a four-game set in Milwaukee from July 24-27. ... The Brewers fielded their 125th different lineup of the season Sunday.
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