The Yankees hope Johnson can to rebound from three straight rough outings, including one of his worst in two years when he takes the mound against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
Johnson (5-3, 5.01 ERA) closes out a three-game set against the A’s after losing his control, and apparently his confidence, in a 14-3 rout at the hands of archrival Boston on Tuesday.
The 42-year-old left-hander gave up seven runs, although only two were earned, with five hits and five walks in 3 2-3 innings, his second-shortest outing of the season. Johnson has allowed 18 runs and 18 hits with 11 walks, three hit batters and only nine strikeouts in 15 1-3 innings spanning his last three starts.
“It looked like I didn’t have a clue out there,” Johnson said after Tuesday’s loss. “I’m throwing balls to the backstop and trying to overthrow, putting more pressure on myself.
“I can’t remember the last time I pitched a good ballgame.”
That was on April 23, when he surrendered one run and three hits in eight innings of a 7-1 win over Baltimore. Since then, however, the Big Unit has pitched so poorly that the Yankees (21-13) sent him for an MRI on Wednesday. The exam confirmed that his left shoulder was healthy.
“We just wanted to get that aside,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Now he can focus on mechanics.”
Johnson allowed seven runs in another loss to an AL East rival, the Toronto Blue Jays, on April 18 in his shortest start of the season—3 1-3 innings. The 10-time All-Star had a decent first year with the Yankees in winning 17 games, but wasn’t consistently dominant and struggled at times. Now Johnson is stumbling through his second season in New York after being acquired from Arizona in the hopes that he could lead them back to the World Series.
Despite his problems, Johnson will be looking Sunday to tie for the AL lead in wins with six. The Big Unit has gotten 52 runs of support in his eight starts, the most in the majors.
The Yankees hope Sunday’s game is a turning point for Johnson as they go for a sweep of the A’s (17-19), who are looking to avoid their fifth consecutive loss.
New York won for the second straight time since losing Matsui for an extended period Thursday, defeating Oakland 4-3 on Saturday. Alex Rodriguez hit a three-run homer in the first inning and Derek Jeter added a solo shot in the third.
The game marked the return of a lighter A’s third baseman Eric Chavez, who missed four games and lost 10 pounds due to a bacterial infection. He went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts as the designated hitter, and is expected to sit out Sunday’s contest.
“I feel fine for a normal human being. But for a ballplayer, it isn’t good enough,” Chavez said. “I don’t think I’m going to play tomorrow. I want to help this team and I don’t think I can do that right now. I want to take a couple of days to regenerate and aim for maybe Tuesday … “
Right-hander Dan Haren (2-3, 5.03 ERA) will look to win consecutive starts for the first time this season as he makes his Yankee Stadium debut.
Haren yielded three runs and six hits with seven strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings of a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
“I was able to throw everything for strikes which is key against a lineup like that,” Haren said.
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 4.00 ERA in three starts against the Yankees, surrendering four homers and striking out 17 in 18 innings.
New York will be without struggling reliever Tanyon Sturtze after the right-hander was placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with soreness in the front of his pitching shoulder. Sturtze has a 7.59 ERA in 18 appearances and has been supplanted by Scott Proctor, who pitched 2 1-3 scoreless innings Saturday, as Torre’s main option in the seventh inning.