After a rough stretch, Yankees starter Randy Johnson is starting to look a little bit more like the staff ace New York hoped he would be this season.
He’ll look to turn in another strong outing when AL East-leading New York opens a three-game series with the Oakland Athletics Friday at Yankee Stadium.
Johnson (7-4, 5.33 ERA) gave up four runs—three in the first inning—and three hits in 7 1-3 innings of the Yankees’ 10-inning, 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.
“Randy was great,” New York manager Joe Torre said. “The first inning, he made a couple of bad pitches and it cost him. He settled in and gave us every bit of what we saw last Monday.”
The 42-year-old left-hander was coming off a 4-0 win over the Detroit on May 29 in which he allowed just two hits in six innings. In his previous six starts, however, his age seemed to be catching up to him as he allowed 33 runs in 31 1-3 innings.
“It’s just mechanical stuff,” catcher Kelly Stinnett said. “Maybe he’s not throwing 98 mph anymore, but he’s still at 94-95, which is still really good. It’s just a matter of spotting his fastball, getting up on top of the ball. … I just think he needs to be himself.”
Much of Johnson’s troubles this season have come in the first inning, when he has allowed 18 runs. He owns an ERA of 12.46 in the first and 3.86 thereafter, while batters are hitting .358 against him in the opening frame and .236 in other innings.
“I don’t mind the first-inning troubles,” Torre said. “He and a lot of other great pitchers have had that problem in the past.”
Johnson is 13-8 with a 2.88 ERA in 25 career appearances against the A’s. He will square off against Oakland’s Dan Haren (4-5, 3.75) for the second time this season in Friday’s series opener.
Johnson gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings of a 6-1 loss on May 14, while Haren allowed just six hits in a complete-game win.
“He never throws the ball straight. He’s not fun to face,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said of Haren, who was making his first-ever start at Yankee Stadium.
Haren is 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA in four career starts against the Yankees.
He allowed just three hits in six scoreless innings of Oakland’s 2-1 win over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday, but did not receive a decision. Haren is 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA in his last three starts after winning three consecutive outings.
The A’s (29-31) have won six of eight after Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians. Mark Kotsay and Jason Kendall had three hits apiece for Oakland as starter Esteban Loaiza came off the disabled list to earn the win.
However, starter Rich Harden returned to the DL with a strained elbow ligament and shortstop Bobby Crosby injured a knuckle on his right hand during the game. Crosby tried to continue playing, but was unable to grip the ball.
The Yankees (35-23) lost for just the third time in 12 games on Thursday, falling 9-3 to Boston. Johnny Damon, Bernie Williams and Robinson Cano each had solo homers for New York, whose lead over the Red Sox in the division shrank to just a half-game.