Facebook Twitter

SEATTLE SMILES AT JOHNSON’S FASTBALL

SHARE SEATTLE SMILES AT JOHNSON’S FASTBALL

When Randy Johnson's 98 mph fastball is whistling past hitters, they actually start mumbling. New Seattle Mariners catcher Dan Wilson hears them all the time.

"They'll say, `Randy's on,' and `Let's see if I can make contact,"' Wilson said. "Stuff like that."Any profanity?

"We don't ever swear in this game," Wilson said with a wink.

After Johnson's club-record third consecutive shutout - a 2-0 victory over the two-time defending World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays Saturday night - his teammates are swearing by him.

After watching Johnson compile 27 consecutive innings of goose eggs, new teammate Goose Gossage says he's surprised at how good Johnson is. And, the 42-year-old Gossage watched Johnson lose a bid for a second career no-hitter on a ninth-inning single to Lance Blankenship in Oakland last season.

"What really amazes me is that he really has an idea out there," Gossage said. "He's not just throwing hard. He has stopper stuff for nine innings."

From Gossage, that's quite a compliment. He had quite a fastball himself and once was considered the game's best stopper when he was with the New York Yankees in the late '70s.

In Johnson's latest shutout, he threw 141 pitches, and 93 of them were strikes - against a lineup that included major league RBI-leader Joe Carter, whom he struck out three times; 1993 World Series MVP Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar and Devon White.

"He is great," Alomar said.

Now, remember, this is a 6-foot-10 left-hander who has had to battle his control most of his life.

Johnson allowed the Blue Jays six hits, struck out a major league-high 15 and walked two to improve his record to 7-3 with his fifth victory in a row.

His near-flawless string of 27 scoreless innings is the second best in Seattle's history. Mark Langston pitched 34 1-3 scoreless innings for the Mariners from Sept. 14-29.

Johnson won 1-0 in Oakland May 25, pitching a four-hitter with nine strikeouts and two walks. Last Monday in Minnesota, he won 12-0 on a two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and two walks.

In three games, he's allowed 12 hits, walked eight and struck out 34.

After being tagged for 10 earned runs in 2 1-3 innings in his second start of the season in Toronto April 10, a 12-6 defeat, Johnson has lowered his ERA from 5.72 to 3.87.

"Nolan Ryan's the only one I've ever seen dominate over a stretch like this," Mariners manager Lou Piniella said.

"It's a funny game," Johnson said. "I've pitched three obviously good ball games but knock on wood. I could go out in my next start and pitch like I did in Toronto."

Johnson was good last season, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, when he led the majors with 308 strikeouts while going 19-8 with a 3.24 ERA in 34 starts. He even had his first major-league save after Norm Charlton got hurt.

The Mariners rewarded him with a four-year, $20.25 million contract.

"Maybe I'd get a foul-tip off him," teammate and major league home-run leader Ken Griffey Jr. said.

Gossage has seen a lot of great pitchers in his glorious career. Ryan was the best because of his longevity, he said. For one game, though, Johnson might be the best Gossage has ever seen.

"There are some good pitchers today," Gossage said. "But as far as coming to watch, I'd pay to come watch this guy pitch. I sat there in the bullpen Saturday night and just shook my head. It was one of the greatest performances I've ever watched."