SAN DIEGO (AP)—Randy Johnson threw nasty sliders and a few fastballs in the 95-96 mph range, hit a single and made a nice defensive play, bounding off the mound to field a chopper and throw out the runner.
Just like that, the Big Unit was back in the win column.
Johnson got his first victory since having back surgery in August, leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 5-1 win over staggering San Diego on Friday night. Johnson held the Padres’ popgun offense to one run on three hits while striking out seven in six innings.
“My body felt good today,” Johnson said. “I’m pleased.”
Johnson’s last win came on June 10 against Boston. He made one more start before his 2007 ended because of a sore back that required a second surgery in less than a year.
The 6-foot-10 lefty said he might have tried pushing a few things last year. He intends to go slow this year, even if it means missing a start here and there.
“This is the reason I’m playing, because I feel I can do these kind of games when I’m healthy,” he 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.”
Johnson had a no-decision in his first start this season, at San Francisco, and lost to Randy Wolf and the Padres on Sunday, 9-4 at Phoenix.
Manager Bob Melvin said Johnson appears to be on a similar pace as last year.
“I know he feels pretty good,” Melvin said.
The last-place Padres lost for the ninth time in 10 games. They’re six games under .500 and 8 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks.
“Johnson had pretty good stuff tonight,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “He threw the ball well.”
The NL West-leading Diamondbacks jumped on Wolf for five runs in the third inning, which was highlighted by Mark Reynolds’ three-run homer to straightaway center. The Diamondbacks scored as many runs that inning as the Padres had in their previous 55 innings at Petco Park. Chris Young doubled in a run and Orlando Hudson had an RBI single that inning.
I kept getting behind in the count, especially that third inning,” Wolf said. “I wasn’t ahead of anybody. You have to credit them. They’re a good, young, hitting team. When you fall behind, and you’re not making quality pitches, they’ll take advantage of it.”
Reynolds has seven homers and 22 RBIs, both team highs.
The Padres position players and hitting coach Wally Joyner held a pregame meeting that leadoff batter Brian Giles described as “productive.”
Still, the Padres are struggling to come up with key hits while playing a sputtering brand of station-to-station ball. They’ve now scored six runs in their last 62 innings at home.
San Diego loaded the bases with one out in the fourth yet scored only one run. Kevin Kouzmanoff singled, Khalil Greene doubled and Justin Huber, who hit a three-run homer off Johnson on Sunday, was hit by a pitch on his left elbow. Josh Bard took a called third strike on a nasty slider before rookie Callix Crabbe singled to left to score Kouzmanoff. Johnson then struck out pinch-hitter and former teammate Tony Clark to end the threat.
“I think everyone in the clubhouse has that competitive instinct and no one in here is comfortable with losing,” Wolf said. “It’s frustrating. We just have to try and improve tomorrow.”
Johnson (1-1) walked two. Three relievers combined for three hitless innings to preserve the win.
Wolf (2-1) was gone after four innings. He allowed five runs and seven hits while striking out three and walking none.
D-Backs LF Eric Byrnes sat out for the second straight night with “leg issues.” He also was off Thursday night in Los Angeles to rest his sore legs after starting in each of the first 21 games. … Arizona SS Stephen Drew got the night off. … It was Mexican Opening Night at Petco Park, so Giles had a mariachi band drop by the clubhouse before the game to play a few songs, including “Tequila.”