Houston (13-15) at Arizona (19-8)

Fair Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 3:40 pm EDT Wed Apr 30, 2008
  • TV: FSSW, FSAZ
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A trio of young starters helped the Arizona Diamondbacks open the season strong. The addition of Randy Johnson to the rotation has made the NL West leaders even more dangerous.

Johnson looks to build on his first victory of the season - and 285th of his career - as he takes the mound in the finale of the Diamondbacks’ three-game series against the Houston Astros on Wednesday.

Arizona (19-8) has the best record in the majors, thanks largely to the success of Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Micah Owings, who are a combined 14-1 with a 2.80 ERA in 17 starts.

Johnson joined the rotation late, opening the season on the disabled list after undergoing his second back surgery in a year in August. Though the Diamondbacks didn’t know exactly what to expect from the 44-year-old left-hander who was limited to 10 starts last year, Johnson (1-1, 2.70 ERA) has been solid, limiting opponents to a .194 batting average and striking out 20 in 16 2-3 innings spanning three starts.

Johnson held San Diego to one run and three hits in six innings while striking out seven in a 5-1 victory on Friday - his first win since June 10.

“I’m getting to where I want to be,” Johnson told the Diamondbacks’ official Web site.

Though he struggled to stay on the field in 2007, Johnson had made at least 29 starts in nine of the previous 10 seasons. He feels he has plenty left in the tank if he can stay off the DL.

“This is the reason I’m playing, because I feel I can do these kind of games when I’m healthy,” Johnson said. “That’s why I’m still playing because I still enjoy being competitive, I still enjoy going out and doing that. I’m 44 years old. I still enjoy going and grabbing a bat and trying to put the ball in play. I still enjoy the competition of trying to get a hitter out.”

“I enjoy all that. I just feel like I can still pitch and have a couple of good games left in me.”

Johnson will try to help Arizona avoid its first losing series since it dropped two of three in a season-opening set against Cincinnati March 31-April 3.

Houston (13-15) evened this series and snapped a three-game skid with a 6-4 victory on Tuesday night, when former Arizona closer Jose Valverde struck out the side in the ninth for his fifth save.

“Everybody knows this is my old team,” said Valverde, acquired in December. “I was excited. To strike out this guy and do it for the Houston Astros, it’s emotional for me.”

Miguel Tejada, another first-year Astros player, was 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored, raising his season average to .343. Tejada is 12-for-35 (.343) with one home run in his career against Johnson.

The Astros will turn to Shawn Chacon (0-0, 2.45), who’s still looking for his first win with Houston despite having delivered a quality start in each of his first five outings.

The right-hander held St. Louis to two runs - one earned - and five hits in seven innings on Friday, but didn’t factor in the decision of Houston’s 3-2 victory. He’s 2-6 with a 3.88 ERA in 18 career games - eight starts - against the Diamondbacks.

Johnson, who spent half a season with Houston in 1998, is 4-0 with a 2.50 ERA in five career starts against the Astros, but he hasn’t faced them since 2002 during his first stint with the Diamondbacks.

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Starting Pitchers

S. Chacon Oak vs. R. Johnson SF
2-3 Record 11-10
5.04 ERA 3.91
53 K 173
41 BB 44
1.51 WHIP 1.24

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Apr 30