Randy Johnson looks to go from the mountains to a time trial.
In his last outing—a 7-4 win over the the New York Mets on Sunday— Johnson gave up four runs and scattered 10 hits over eight innings to win consecutive starts for the first time in 2003. Friday’s test should be stiffer as the the flame-throwing left-hander takes on a Braves team coming off yet another power display.
“Normally when I talk to you guys I have a lot of golf metaphors,” Johnson said after last weekend’s victory. “Today it was more like the Tour de France. Today from the very beginning we were in the Pyrenees and I was in about 10th gear the whole time.”
Johnson will have to shift down if he’s going to have a chance against the Braves.
Javy Lopez tied a club record with his eighth multi-homer game of the season and Gary Sheffield and Chipper Jones also homered Thursday night in a 7-4 win over San Diego. On Friday night, Johnson will face a predominantly right-handed lineup that has some pop to it—Atlanta leads the National League with 182 home runs and 680 runs.
While the challenge will be formidable, Arizona has a motivational advantage: The Braves, 12 games up in the NL East, are cruising to a record 12th straight divisional title, while the Diamondbacks are battling a handful of teams in an effort to claim the league’s lone wild-card spot.
Friday’s game will be the opener of a four-game set at Turner Field. Following the series, Arizona will return home for a stretch of 13 straight games at the friendly confines of Bank One Ballpark.
STANDINGS: Diamondbacks - 2nd place, 9 1/2 GB, NL West. Braves - 1st place, NL East.
DIAMONDBACKS PROBABLE STARTER: Johnson (3-4, 4.42 ERA). Johnson will be making his sixth start following a 2 1/2 -month stay on the disabled list due to knee surgery. He has not faced the Braves this season.
BRAVES PROBABLE STARTER: Shane Reynolds (9-6, 5.48 ERA). The veteran right-hander was the victim of a rare lack of offense by his teammates in a 3-1 loss at St. Louis on Aug. 9. He allowed two runs on five hits and three walks in six innings. Prior to that, Reynolds had won four of his last five games. He has not faced Arizona this season.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Diamondbacks - Carlos Baerga, .323 avg.; Luis Gonzalez, 21 HRs, 79 RBIs and 75 runs; Steve Finley, 9 SBs. Braves - Sheffield, .334 avg. and 96 RBIs; Lopez, 33 HRs; Rafael Furcal, 97 runs and 20 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Braves, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Diamondbacks - Arizona 3B Shea Hillenbrand is hitless in his last 15 at bats. … The Diamondbacks had a 16-game winning streak against Cincinnati snapped in a 3-2 loss Thursday night. Atlanta - C Lopez tied Andres Galarraga’s team record set in 1998. … RF Sheffield’s homer extended his hitting streak to 18 games, tying his career high. … LF Jones homered for the third game in a row—all since his father, a former college coach, came to town to provide a few hitting tips. “We’ve got to keep bringing him in,” manager Bobby Cox said. “Put him on the payroll.”
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Diamondbacks - 29-33 on the road; Braves - 42-18 at home.
INJURIES: Diamondbacks - IF Mark Grace (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Mike Koplove (shoulder), 15-day DL. Braves - RHP Paul Byrd (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Roberto Hernandez (hamstring), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Holmes (shoulder), 15-day DL.