Randy Johnson pitches for the National League during the 2001 Major League Baseball All-Star game at Safeco Field in Seattle. Credit: Otto Gruele/Allsport
It's rare for a single team to provide the starter for their league three years in a row, as the Diamondbacks did from 2000-2002. That's especially the case in the expansion era, as the number of teams - and, thus, potential starters, has greatly increased. Since the early fifties, when the Philadelphia duo of Robin Roberts and Curt Simmons started six consecutive games, only two franchises in all baseball have managed it. The Braves did it from 1996-1998 with John Smoltz and Greg Maddux, and the Diamondbacks were the most recent, with perhaps the best 1-2 punch in recent baseball history started the game, in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.
However, the fans were robbed of seeing the team-mates go back to back in the midsummer classic. That did happen in 1999, but at that point Schilling, who started, was with the Phillies. Both men were selected in 2001 and 2002, but in the first of those, Schilling did not work, having pitched seven innings for Arizona two days previously. Similarly, in 2002, even though the game was called as a tie after 11 innings when the teams ran out of players, Johnson was unable to pitch, having worked three days earlier. So I am calling this a two-for-one, because it is almost impossible to separate the two, and to give an idea of what might have happened: domination.
Both had almost identical lines. They started, went two shutout innings, allowed one hit, walked none and struck out three batters. The last NL pitcher to fan more, was Lee Smith in 1987, and he had to work three frames as that contest went into extra innings. The last NL starter with more strikeouts was the father of our current play-by-play guy: Don Sutton in 1977; again, another three-inning outing. With three K's, no walks and one hit over two scoreless innings, both Randy and Curt got a Game Score of 57, again, one not surpassed in the All-Star Game by an NL pitcher since Sutton.
If you look at the two line-ups faced by Randy and Curt, it's even more impressive. I think I would probably have to give the edge to Johnson, based on the strength of the seven batters that he faced, and that it included a DH, but either would be pretty much the stuff of fantasy league dreams for its time.
|2001 - R.Johnson||2002 - C.Schilling|
|1. Ichiro Suzuki CF
2. Alex Rodriguez 3B
3. Manny Ramirez LF
4. Bret Boone 2B
5. Juan Gonzalez RF
6. John Olerud 1B
7. Edgar Martinez DH
8. Cal Ripken SS
9. Ivan Rodriguez C
|1. Ichiro Suzuki RF
2. Shea Hillenbrand 3B
3. Alex Rodriguez SS
4. Jason Giambi 1B
5. Manny Ramirez LF
6. Jorge Posada C
7. Torii Hunter CF
8. Alfonso Soriano 2B
9. Derek Lowe P
Johnson allowed a lead-off infield single to Ichiro, who promptly stole second. The Big Unit was unfazed, retiring the next six in order, including a three-pitch strikeout of Mandy. He threw 32 pitches, 19 of them strikes; only eight of those 19 resulted in any contact being made, with six swings and misses (including all three of Johnson's K's), and five taken for a strike. Gonzalez was the only batter to succeed in getting the ball beyond the infield against RJ, flying out to Sammy Sosa in shallow right, for the first out in the second frame.
One thing stands out about Curt's appearance: across the seven batters faced, he threw just four balls - 24 of the 28 pitches were for strikes. Nine other pitchers were used that day by the National League, all but one of them working a single inning, rather than Schilling's two; only John Smoltz missed with fewer , and he threw just eight pitches in the game. Schilling had a perfect first; he struck out Hillenbrand and Rodriguez to end the first, then got Giambi looking to give him three K's in a row. Mandy then singled, but like Johnson, Schilling stranded the runner at zero to give him a pair of zeroes.
It's one of the quandaries of the All-Star Game. We're always being told, "This time, it counts," and yet the focus is not on managing to win, but getting everyone to play, like this was a meaningless Little League contest. I think it's safe to say, that if RJ and Curt had ever gone back to back, even three innings apiece from each would likely have stopped the American League's streak of success, well before last year, when the National League finally won their first game since 1996.