The Seattle Mariners saw potential in a struggling rookie pitcher when they traded for Randy Johnson(notes) 20 years ago. His latest rut as he approaches a milestone certainly can’t be blamed on inexperience.
Two wins shy of 300, Johnson returns to the city where his career took off as the San Francisco Giants open a three-game interleague series with the Mariners on Friday night.
Seattle thought highly enough of Johnson to send then-ace Mark Langston to the Montreal Expos to acquire him in 1989. Johnson was 0-4 with a 6.67 ERA prior to the trade, but went 130-74 with a 3.42 ERA in 274 appearances - 266 starts - in his career with the Mariners, winning the AL Cy Young Award in 1995.
Having spent the majority of his last 11 seasons in the NL—and winning four straight Cy Youngs from 1999-2002 with Arizona—Johnson (3-4, 6.86 ERA) almost assuredly will become the 24th pitcher to reach 300 later this season.
“It will be neat for us to face him,” designated hitter Mike Sweeney(notes) told the Mariners’ official Web site, “and for him to come home to a place where he pitched for so many years. It will be good for the fans, too.”
The Big Unit, though, has struggled with a troublesome back and stints on the disabled list in recent years, and is 1-2 with an 11.05 ERA in his last three appearances.
The 45-year-old left-hander gave up seven runs and 11 hits in four innings during a 9-6 loss to the New York Mets on Saturday. It was only the fifth time since 2000 that Johnson has given up 11 hits in a game.
“I’m not too happy with my last three starts. I’m not happy where I’m at,” said Johnson, who’s 3-2 with a 2.03 ERA in five starts - including two complete games - versus the Mariners (19-23), but hasn’t faced them since August 2006 while with the New York Yankees.
Seattle counters with Jason Vargas(notes) (1-0, 1.29), who has allowed just one earned run in each of his last two starts after being used in relief earlier this month. Vargas gave up two runs - one earned - and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings of a 3-2 win over Boston on Sunday.
This will be the left-hander’s first appearance against the Giants.
The Mariners also were shut out one day after beating the Angels 1-0. Seattle has been held to two runs or fewer in 17 games, going 4-13.
San Francisco (19-21) also has had its share of problems trying to generate offense, scoring a total of four runs en route to being swept in a three-game series with San Diego, including a 3-2 loss Thursday.
This will be the first series between the Giants and Mariners since Seattle swept a three-game set at home from June 16-18, 2006. The Mariners split 18 interleague games last season while the Giants went 6-12.