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World Series 2001
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10/30/2001 02:17 AM ET
Johnson proves he's a big-game pitcher
By Ken Gurnick
MLB.com
Johnson's three-hit shutout matched his complete-game blanking of the Braves in Game 1 of the NLCS.
PHOENIX -- The Yankees did more complaining about Randy Johnson's pitches on Sunday than hitting them.

"They complained a few times early in the game, and again late. But those pitches were strikes," said home plate umpire Mark Hirschbeck.

"The Yankees were reacting like a team that hadn't seen him much. I've had Johnson and sometimes he can be erratic, but tonight he was throwing strikes and he was also changing speeds. He'd be throwing 92, 93, then all of a sudden hit 98. I think that surprised them. Johnson had it tonight, he sure did."

Johnson followed Curt Schilling's winning opener with an even more imposing three-hit shutout, a 4-0 win in his World Series debut that was a mirror-image of his Game 1 win over Atlanta in the NLCS.

Johnson last faced the Yankees on Aug. 18 1996, and he's quick to point out that he was a thrower then and a pitcher now. In Game 2, he struck out 11, walked one and allowed three singles -- the same line as the first of his two wins over the Braves. This one put the D-Backs up 2-0 as the World Series shifts to Yankee Stadium.

Bernie Williams, Scott Brosius and Derek Jeter each complained to Hirschbeck, mainly on low strike calls, as did Yankees manager Joe Torre.

Unit of measure: Johnson fast facts

Became the oldest player to pitch a shutout in the World Series, surpassing The Big Train, Walter Johnson, who accomplished the feat in Game 4 of the 1925 World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at age 37. The Washington Senators right-hander shut down Pittsburgh, 4-0, on Oct. 11, 1925. He turned 38 on Nov. 6 of that year.

Threw the first complete game in World Series play since Atlanta's Greg Maddux Oct. 21, 1995, in Game 1 vs. Cleveland.

Threw first complete game shutout in World Series play since Philadelphia's Curt Schilling Oct. 21, 1993, in Game 5 vs. Toronto.

Allowed the fewest hits in a complete-game shutout since Los Angeles' Orel Hershiser threw a three-hitter Oct. 16, 1988, in Game 2 vs. Oakland.

Struck out 11 and now has 411 for the regular season (372) and postseason (39) combined, tying the highest combined total in Major League history. Sandy Koufax struck out 411 in 1965; 382 in the regular season and 29 in the World Series.

"From the dugout side, you can only really see high and low and I thought early in the game a couple of pitches to Bernie were down," Torre said of Hirschbeck, who statistically ranks in the top 20 percent of strikeouts per game umpired. "I thought Mark was consistent tonight. The last thing we're going to do is blame an umpire for what we didn't do tonight."

The Yankees' offensive plan was simple -- hope Johnson was wild.

Johnson saw early that the Yankees' approach was to try to work deep into counts so he would pile up the pitches and wear himself out. He defeated that strategy by throwing fastball strikes early in the count and early in the game, striking out seven of the first nine batters.

"That's what the Atlanta Braves tried to do, try to make me throw pitches and get me out of the game," said Johnson. "Damian (Miller, Arizona's catcher) did such a good job calling the game, I got ahead of hitters and they had to be more aggressive."

Miller said reactions of the batters -- verbally and physically -- said a lot about Johnson's dominating stuff.

"He's throwing 97- and 98-mph fastballs on the inside corner and they're just exploding," Miller said. "When you've got guys backing off and those pitches are catching the corner of the plate, it shows you how that ball is exploding. It's not easy to hit."

The second time through the batting order, the Yankees abandoned the patience plan, swinging earlier. So Johnson adjusted to their adjustment, throwing more sliders than fastballs, and the Yankees wound up playing pepper with third baseman Matt Williams.

Williams, who would figure in a big way with his bat by hitting a three-run homer in the seventh, may have played an even bigger role with his glove. Six balls were hit his way and he had no trouble with any, turning one into a key double play on pinch-hitter Luis Sojo to end the eighth after the Yankees got leadoff singles from Shane Spencer and Alfonso Soriano.

"When Randy Johnson pitches he throws that slider down and in to right-handers and a lot of times it's swung on and missed," said Williams. "But if they do make contact or hit it hard, it's generally at me, so I have to be prepared when he pitches to get a lot of action."

The Yankees, with a lineup stacked with right-handed hitters, didn't have a baserunner until Randy Velarde's one-out walk in the fourth. Their first hit was Jorge Posada's leadoff single in the fifth and nobody advanced past second base.

Johnson threw 110 pitches in the first World Series complete game since Greg Maddux in 1995 and the first complete-game shutout since teammate Curt Schilling with Philadelphia in 1993. The three hits were the fewest allowed in a World Series complete-game shutout since Orel Hershiser in 1988.

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Miller said Johnson even warmed up before the game in spectacular fashion.

"He looked a lot more calm, cool, collected," said Miller. "I think he can make adjustments a lot quicker when he's like that."

After losing Game 2 of the Division Series, Johnson had a seven-game postseason losing streak. He now has a three-game postseason winning streak.

"He's getting better and better," said manager Bob Brenly. "This guy, he has always had the physical skills and the pitches to dominate hitters, but he's very relaxed and focused in the zone right now, and we hope he stays that way for another week."

With Schilling and Johnson presenting the most dominating World Series starting tandem since Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax, Arizona has limited the Yankees to three hits in each game, one run total and a .102 team batting average.

"I'm so happy for him," said Schilling. "He's worked so hard for this and I want to see him succeed. He's waited his whole career for this."

Johnson agreed.

"This is what every player in the clubhouse has waited for," he said. "It's everybody's dream to be here, playing the Yankees on the biggest stage of the sport. I can't wait to go to New York."

And Johnson thinks he knows what to expect.

"Just buckle up, you're in for a ride," he said. "The fans are incredible. If you get booed, take it as a compliment. I'm looking forward to it."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.