clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

10 defining moments from Randy Johnson's time here: #6-4

New, 10 comments

Continuing on through the Big Unit's time with Arizona, we look at the games that book-ended his career, and the best World Series start in almost fifty years.

6. April 5, 1999. First game as a Diamondback

Our debut season had been nothing to write home about, but the owners certainly made a series of statements after that, likely peaking with the signing of Randy Johnson as a free agent on December 10, 1998. He made his debut the following Opening Day in Los Angeles, going up against an even more expensive new signing, the Dodgers' Kevin Brown [I think we go the better deal!]. It was also a rematch of the 1998 NLDS opener, when they were with the Astros and Padres respectively. RJ left after seven with a 6-2 lead, but the Arizona bullpen melted down, and Los Angeles won 8-6 in 11 innings. But

5. September 28, 2008. The final appearance.

Johnson made his last appearance for the Diamondbacks in the final contest of another disappointing campaign, Arizona having failed to repeat at NL West champions; indeed, they needed a win in their final contest to manage even a a winning record. But the Big Unit delivered, in front of a crowd near 36,000 at Chase Field. Randy posted his first nine-inning outing in over three years, and allowing just an unearned run (courtesy of Mark Reynolds at third-base), holding Colorado to two hits and a walk with nine strikeouts. The Game Score of 89 has only been matched twice by D-backs over the six seasons since, both times by Ian Kennedy.

But would it be enough to give Johnson his 295th regular-season win? For the longest time, it didn't look like it, as the first-inning run was enough to keep the Rockies ahead after seven innings, as we couldn't manage anything off Ubaldo Jimenez: three hits, all singles. But in the eighth, Chris Young tied things up with his 22nd home-run of the year, and in the ninth, with Johnson in all probability done, he came through again, drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs. That gave Arizona the fifth walk-off walk in franchise history, and gave Johnson a win in the 100th (and last) complete game of his career. As a yardstick, no currently active pitcher has more than 37.

4. October 28, 2001. Complete game shutout, World Series Game 2

After getting the win as the Diamondbacks clinched the NLCS over the Braves, Johnson could have started Game 1, but the Diamondbacks held him back [my digging hasn't found any particular reason why - anyone remember?]. The decision worked out, as Curt Schilling took the opener, and Johnson then spun a performance for the ages in the second game at Bank One Ballpark. Johnson held the Yankees to three hits, all singles, walked one and struck out 11. The resulting Game Score of 91 for Randy, remains the highest in the World Series by any pitcher since Bob Gibson fanned 17 in the opener of the 1968 fall classic.

After the game Johnson was almost dismissive of the Yankees hitters. "To be honest, I don't know what their approach was against me. I'm sure they had one." Whatever it was, clearly wasn't working for New York, as he struck out seven of nine in a perfect first time through the order. By the time the Yankees got their second hit, in the eighth inning, the Diamondbacks were already four runs up, mostly thanks to Matt Williams' three-run homer. As we'll see, Johnson's post-game comments proved prophetic: "We've got to go to New York now and play three ballgames and it's going to be tough there. It was nice, obviously to take two ballgames, but this is far from over."