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Young fans six in six solid innings of work

ATLANTA -- What may have been Chris Young's final start with the Mets turned out like so many of the others. Young made a few mistakes -- he's the first to admit that -- while pitching well enough to give the Mets their eighth win in nine games. But the offense did not support him Saturday in a 2-0 loss to the Braves at Turner Field.

In six innings, Young held Atlanta to nothing more than Jason Heyward's RBI groundout in the first and Martin Prado's run-scoring double in the fifth, striking out six and walking one. But the Mets could not back him at a sold-out Turner Field, going quietly against Braves starter Mike Minor and a quartet of relievers.

"I'm very pleased about certain things, and wish that I had been better in other areas," Young said. "Ultimately, it's about team wins and losses the day you pitch, and we didn't win a whole lot on the days that I pitched. If I pitched a bit better, I think that would have changed."

Perhaps he's being hard on himself. Never did the Mets even threaten Saturday against the left-handed Minor, who retired 16 of 17 batters after putting the leadoff man on base in the second. Not once did Minor put multiple men on base in an inning, giving up just three hits and walking none. Though Cy Young Award candidate and closer Craig Kimbrel became the first Braves pitcher to jam two men on base in the same inning, nothing emerged from that rally in the ninth.

The result was New York's second loss in its last nine games, prompting Young to bemoan the process -- as he so often does after losses.

"My goal is to be better than I was this year," he said. "I felt like for the most part I was pretty good. I want to get back to being as good as I can possibly be."

Of course, the fact that Young pitched at all was something worth noting.

Heading into Spring Training, it seemed unlikely that the right-hander would even throw a pitch in the big leagues this season, let alone reel off 20 starts. Not only was Young less than a year removed from the same shoulder capsule surgery that sidelined Johan Santana for 19 months, but he compounded that with a litany of past arm injuries. A speedy recovery seemed unreasonable.

Yet Young consulted with Santana on his various aches and pains, proved his health over the course of the summer and appeared to grow stronger as the months flipped by, finishing with four consecutive quality starts.

It all lines him up to assume a standard workload in 2013; for the first time in years, Young will arrive at a big league camp not needing to rehab his arm. Instead, he will be able to spend his time working on the types of mechanical tweaks he needs to excel.

"I think he's shown enough," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "As hard as he works, he'll spend the winter making sure his shoulder's as strong as it can be, and I think next year Chris is going to be able to go out there 28 or 30 times."

But that is unlikely to occur with the Mets, whose greatest asset is their rotation. R.A. Dickey, Santana, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey and Dillon Gee will all be back next season, forming a formidable starting five. Should any of them falter, Collin McHugh, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia or Jeremy Hefner could all step in -- not to mention super-prospect Zack Wheeler, who is on the cusp of the big leagues as well.

With that framework in place, there is no obvious spot for Young, who will almost certainly seek a guaranteed big league contract after signing incentive-laden deals the past two winters. It is unlikely that, after proving his health all summer, Young will be content to provide nothing more than rotation insurance.

Either way, stay or go, he is grateful for an opportunity that no other team gave him.

"I think more than anything, I'm thankful to the Mets organization," Young said. "It's a great organization. I'm proud to be part of it. I know the season hasn't gone the way we had hoped, the way we would draw it up. But there's a lot of character on this team."

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