The “Big Unit” looks to put an end to one of the worst stretches of his career by stopping Arizona’s five-game losing streak, as the Diamondbacks take on the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The teams are making up a June 12 rainout of their interleague series in which they split the first two games.
Since spending 12 weeks on the disabled list because of right knee surgery, Johnson is 3-3 with a 5.71 ERA in seven starts.
However, the four-time NL Cy Young Award winner has dropped three of four with Saturday’s 2-1 loss to San Francisco, allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings. Johnson struck out 11 and walked two in one of his best outings of the season, but lost because he surrendered home runs to Rich Aurilia and Barry Bonds.
“If there’s anything encouraging to take out of this ballgame, hopefully RJ’s back and throwing the ball like we’d hoped he would,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly said. “But if you don’t score, you don’t win.”
In addition to their five-game losing streak, the Diamondbacks have also dropped 14 of their last 20, including Thursday’s 12-0 loss to the San Diego Padres. The biggest shutout loss in the Diamondbacks’ six-year history dropped Arizona five games behind NL wild-card leading Philadelphia and Florida.
Kansas City snapped its four-game losing streak with Wednesday’s 3-1 victory over Texas. Jimmy Gobble gave up a leadoff homer to Michael Young but shut down the Rangers over the rest of his seven innings.
“This was a very important game for our ballclub,” Royals manager Tony Pena said. “We’d lost four, and they were tough losses. But you have to be happy where we are. We’re only one out. It’s going to be close all the way to the end. We took some punches, but we’re not knocked down yet.”
STANDINGS: Diamondbacks - 3rd place, 15 1/2 GB, NL West. Royals - 3rd place, 1 GB, AL Central.
DIAMONDBACKS PROBABLE STARTER: Johnson (4-7, 4.84 ERA). Johnson has thrived in his 26 career starts against the Royals, going 17-5 with a 3.33 ERA.
ROYALS PROBABLE STARTER: Brad Voyles (0-2, 8.35 ERA). Voyles has been shuffled between the majors and minors this season and also bounced from the rotation to the bullpen and back again. The 26-year-old right-hander, who is 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in two starts this season, hasn’t started since a 9-5 loss to Detroit on July 5. He was reached for six runs and eight hits over four innings, striking out five and walking two. Voyles will be making his first career start against Arizona.
SEASON SERIES: Tied, 1-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Diamondbacks - LHP Johnson notched his 1,500th strikeout as a Diamondback during Saturday’s loss to the Giants, joining Nolan Ryan as the only hurlers with 1,500 strikeouts for two different clubs. … The Diamondbacks are 10-4 against the AL this season. … INF Carlos Baerga is hitting .431 (25-for-58) over his last 16 games. Royals - The Royals are 8-6 against the NL this season. … OF Rondell White is hitting .318 in his 22 career at-bats against LHP Johnson with one homer and two RBIs. … 3B Randa went 1-for-4 Wednesday to stretch his hitting streak to 16 games. He is batting .452 (28-for-62) during the stretch with two homers and 13 RBIs.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Diamondbacks - 30-38 on the road; Royals - 37-32 at home.
INJURIES: Diamondbacks - RHP Mike Koplove (shoulder), 60-day DL. Royals - OF Michael Tucker (leg), 15-day DL; RHP Jose Lima (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Appier (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Miguel Asencio (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Runelvys Hernandez (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Kyle Snyder (shoulder), 60-day DL.