Randy Johnson will try to win his fifth straight decision and help the New York Yankees take their first series of the season from the Los Angeles Angels as the teams complete a three-game set at Yankee Stadium.
Johnson, who was a mediocre 7-6 with a 4.24 ERA after an embarrassing 10-2 loss at Detroit on July 1, has finally started performing like a five-time Cy Young Award winner. The intimidating left-hander is coming off arguably his best performance as a Yankee, yielding two hits and striking out a season high-tying 11 in eight brilliant innings of a 4-0 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday.
The Big Unit, who has been pitching through back pain, did not walk a batter and improved to 4-0 over his last five starts.
“Randy tonight, I think he answered all the questions,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “He may not have felt 100 percent, but most pitchers when they pitch as long as he has find a way to deal with, you know, with things.”
The Yankees dropped six of their first eight meetings to the Angels—the only team with a winning record (49-47) against New York during the Joe Torre era (1996-present)—and appeared headed for another series defeat before staging a ninth-inning rally Saturday.
Los Angeles closer Francisco Rodriguez, who finished off the Yankees in Friday’s series-opening 4-1 win, walked four batters in the ninth before Hideki Matsui’s walk-off two-run single gave the Yankees an 8-7 victory.
“We were a little bit short today. Frankie was a little bit extended, and you’ve got to give them credit, it just got away from him,” Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s our guy, and he had enough in him to get through that inning.”
The blown save was Rodriguez’s second in three days, but just his fourth in 29 chances this season.
“It was a disaster. I don’t think they beat me, I think I beat myself. I felt fine. My velocity was there. I just had no command in the ninth inning,” Rodriguez said. “You feel like you can’t control your body, can’t control your arm.”
The Angels have lost five of six, shaving their once-commanding lead in the AL West to just 2 1/2 games over the surging Oakland Athletics.