"He's as good as it gets," Young said. "I have faced very good hitters. Every hitter in the Major Leagues is very good, and he's the best of the best. I have complete respect for him. He's a great hitter, and I have my work cut out for me."
Young held Pujols to a single in three at-bats on Sept. 27, a fourth-inning full-count hit after Pujols had taken a 2-2 pitch that was close to strike three. This led to the only run the Cards managed in Young's seven innings, Pujols scoring on Scott Rolen's two-out single to tie it at 1.
The Padres, going for a three-game sweep, seized a 2-1 lead in the eighth before Pujols bombed a three-run homer against Cla Meredith for a 4-2 victory. Young was reported to have had back spasms during that game, but he and manager Bruce Bochy emphasize that it's a non-issue as he goes to work on Saturday.
"I had my best bullpen of the season [on Wednesday]," Young said. "I feel good."
Much of the talk in the series has centered on the Padres' decision to pitch to Pujols, whose two-run homer against Jake Peavy was the big blow in Game 1 and whose RBI single against David Wells was decisive in Game 2.
Asked if the score would dictate how he approached Pujols, Young said: "I think very much so. If we're up and it's a situation where he can't tie or put them ahead, then we'll pitch to him and try to get him out by making good pitches.
"But if it's a situation where he can put them on top or extend their lead, we're going to be very careful with him.
"It's hard to go through all the hypotheticals right now. I'll go through it once the game is going on and decide -- talk to the pitching coach [Darren Balsley] and Boch and see what we want to do."
Pujols had some flattering things to say about Young after his first look at the Princeton man who joined Adrian Gonzalez and Terrmel Sledge in the six-player winter swap with Texas that paid enormous dividends for San Diego.
"That guy is amazing," Pujols said. "He's tough. Now I can see why people around the league have problems beating this guy. He's real tough. He mixes his pitches really good. He doesn't throw a hard fastball, but it looks like 95 mph when he has his good stuff like his changeup and curveball."
Young has been in a dominant groove over his past three starts, yielding a total of five hits in his last 21 1/3 innings to finish the season as the most difficult pitcher in the league to hit. Opponents batted .206 against him. In five starts in September, covering 31 2/3 innings, he gave up 13 hits and fashioned a 2.56 ERA -- yet won only one game, with four no-decisions.
His road work has brought him attention he isn't particularly comfortable with, but it's hard to overlook 24 consecutive starts in unfriendly environments without a loss. Only the Yankees' Allie Reynolds more than a half-century ago, in 1948-49, did better, going to the post 25 times on the road without losing a decision.
Young is 6-0 on the road this season and 9-0 with 15 no-decisions since he lost to Houston as a member of the Texas Rangers in 2005. He led the league in road ERA this season at 2.41.
"There's no real thing that I can identify that has helped in this streak that everybody has made a big deal about," Young said. "I think a lot of it is just luck. There have been games where I haven't pitched too well on the road and the team scored a lot of runs, so really, I don't attribute anything aside from luck to it."
Whatever it is that makes him a dynamic road character Kerouac would have admired, Young hopes to add a memorable adventure to his travelogue on Saturday.