PHOENIX – It was one game, one victory, but for a reeling Arizona Diamondbacks team and a struggling Randy Johnson, it felt like a lot more Sunday afternoon at Chase Field.
With the 3-2 win over the San Diego Padres, the Diamondbacks thwarted a would-be sweep by one of baseball’s worst teams, and Johnson silenced, at least for the moment, questions about whether he had anything left in the tank.
The Diamondbacks, who at 44-45 maintained their half-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, gained at least a shred of confidence before heading on the road, where they have not been treated kindly this season.
Arizona opens a three-game series at Washington on Tuesday, then heads to Philadelphia, where it faces the National League East-leading Phillies for the final three games before the all-star break.
Johnson rediscovered his command and slider, in turn rediscovering his dominant form, striking out 10 in 6 1/3 innings and allowing one run to earn the victory.
The fifth victory of the season and 289th of his career was a long time coming for Johnson, who had not won since May 18, covering eight starts.
Johnson had gone 0-6 with a 7.94 ERA in his past six starts, allowing seven earned runs or more three times during that stretch. In several of those games, his slider had looked flat, his location inconsistent.
“Location is a necessity,” Johnson said. “My location was a lot better. My slider was a lot better.”
The only instance in which poor location hurt him on Sunday was on the second pitch of the game, a high fastball that Canyon del Oro High grad Scott Hairston knocked out to left field for his third homer in two games.
Upset as he was – Johnson appeared to mutter to himself the rest of the inning – he recovered, retiring the next three batters to start a streak of 10 in a row retired. After a hit by pitch in the fourth, he retired seven straight.
A monstrous home run by Justin Upton (estimated distance: 484 feet), a blast that ranks as the second-longest home run in Chase Field history, tied the game at 1 in the fifth, and an RBI single by Stephen Drew later that inning and a solo homer by Mark Reynolds in the sixth gave Arizona a 3-1 lead.
UP NEXT: Arizona (Owings 6-7) at Washington (Perez 2-5), 4:10 p.m. Tuesday. TV: FSNA. Radio: 1490 AM