Johnson remains two wins shy of 300
Big Unit struggles for third consecutive start
SAN FRANCISCO -- The groans of disappointment that surely went up among many Seattle-area baseball fans Saturday almost could be heard here, some 700 miles away.Randy Johnson, who transformed from just another hard-throwing, scattershot left-handed pitcher into "The Big Unit" during his 1989-98 tenure with the Seattle Mariners, will not win his 300th game at Safeco Field. Johnson absorbed the decision Saturday in the Giants' 9-6 loss to the Mets, denying him his 299th career victory -- which would have set him up for a chance to reach the 300 milestone in his next scheduled start Friday at Seattle. The 6-foot-10 left-hander allowed seven runs and 11 hits in four-plus innings, marking the fifth time since 2000 that he yielded that many hits in a game. Johnson, 45, has other concerns besides becoming the 24th pitcher to win 300 games. He has slumped in three appearances since shutting out Colorado for seven innings on May 1, working progressively fewer innings each time -- 5 2/3 at Colorado on May 6 and five against Washington last Monday before lasting four batters into the fifth against the Mets. Johnson's ERA in this span is 11.05 (18 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings, with 27 hits allowed), raising his overall ERA from 5.89 to 6.86. "Despite winning the last start, I'm not happy with where I'm at right now," Johnson said. "I guess I'll do some searching on videotape, talk to Rags [pitching coach Dave Righetti] a little bit and try to get some things worked out." Johnson said that he'll concentrate mostly on pitch location when he studies himself. Yielding hits on two-strike counts to Luis Castillo (1-2), Alex Cora (0-2) and Carlos Beltran (0-2) to begin the game suggested to him that he's slipping in this area. Catcher Bengie Molina confirmed this, saying that the only major flaw he has noticed in Johnson's pitching is his "fastball inside [to] righties. We're missing pretty much in the middle of the plate." Johnson also praised the Mets, who have hit .359 (42-for-117) with 24 runs scored in the first three games of this series. "It's the best lineup that I've seen so far this year," he said.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.