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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Johnson learns new trick, Diamondbacks pull ahead

PHOENIX (REUTERS) — Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling have become good buddies during their 15 months together in Arizona, sharing advice and offering suggestions on to how to improve their already dominating ways.

The latest lesson? It is mathematically impossible to lose a game in the postseason if you don’t give up any runs.

Even if your team can’t score more than a run or two, just don’t allow the opposition to cross the plate and you know what? You just might come out a winner.

Schilling picked up on that in last week’s 1-0, complete-game shutout to open the Division Series. The attentive Johnson, who watched that game and Schilling’s one-run gem in Game 5 against St. Louis, figured it out for himself exactly one week later in a dominating complete-game shutout of his own to open the National League Championship Series with a 2-0 victory.

For Johnson, it was a lesson that took him some 13 major-league seasons to learn. He had been un-Mr. October, a multi-million dollar man hired to dominate in the postseason, but consistently falling short.

Seven straight postseason losses — a major-league record — blemished the resume of this generation’s best left-handed pitcher. But in five of those games, he gave up three runs or fewer. He was pitching well enough to win, but wasn’t coming out on top.

For the exact reason the Astros had traded for him and the Diamondbacks signed him — postseason dominance — he had failed. Yet on this day, thanks to the teachings of Mr. Schilling, he figured it out:

No runs allowed = win.

OK, so it isn’t exactly Fermat’s Last Theorem.

“[Curt] says that I raised the bar for him, and I told him after we were celebrating a couple nights ago that after watching the games he’s pitched, he’s raised the bar for me now,” Johnson said. “Is this a monkey off my back? This is more like a gorilla, King Kong.”

This was as dominant as Johnson has ever been. After allowing a scratch infield single to Chipper Jones on a bang-bang play in the first, he retired 20 straight batters. He didn’t allow a hit for seven straight innings, tying an LCS record.

The Braves hit the ball hard four times in the game, two of them coming on warning-track fly balls by second baseman Marcus Giles. But more times than not, 11 to be exact, Braves hitters headed back to the dugout, bat in hand, a giant “K” staring at them on the scoreboard.

The only hitter who had any consistent success was Jones, who was 2-for-4, raising his lifetime average against the Big Unit to .440. But even he was impressed.

“He was flat-out awesome. Truly the best I’ve ever seen him,” said Jones, who in the second pitch of his third at-bat said he didn’t even see the cruise missile that zipped by. “I looked up at the scoreboard and it said 99. I’m like, ‘My ass that was 99.’ I didn’t even see it.”

And just like that, the Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead in this best-of-7 series. For a team that can’t score any runs (they’ve now totaled just 12 in six postseason games), the combination of Schilling and Johnson may just be enough to carry them to the World Series. Especially if the — dare we say — “Dynamic Duo” keeps coming up with performances like these.

In four playoff starts this year, Johnson and Schilling are now 3-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 35 innings. No pitching combination — not even postseason stalwarts Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine — can match that.

The overpowering performances are becoming so common that to the D-Backs, they’re all starting to blend together. And the well of adjectives to describe such games is running dry.

“I dunno, just tremendous,” said first baseman Mark Grace, who is rarely at a loss for words. “I just stand back there and shake my head at both of them. It’s mind-boggling.”

Despite Johnson’s postseason troubles, somehow you sensed this one coming. During yesterday’s press conference, the questions about the postseason losing streak were endless. Yet unlike in the past, Johnson calmly answered them all, even once telling reporters that he enjoyed the criticism, as it meant that people had high expectations of him.

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