Randy Johnson is 5-2 through seven starts. But that’s not as good as it looks.
Facing a Tampa lineup missing Jorge Cantu, Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo, Johnson gave up five runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 innings Thursday night, letting the Devil Rays stay in the game until the Yankees finally broke it open for a 10-5 victory.
Such games have become routine. In his previous start, against Toronto on Saturday, Johnson allowed six runs on six hits in five innings. The Yankees bailed him out by scoring 17 runs.
That method may work now. It won’t in October.
“Right now he’s not as good as he’s going to be,” manager Joe Torre said of Johnson, 42. “Let’s put it this way: We don’t have any concerns. … This is just normal pitching stuff.”
Johnson has allowed 19 earned runs in his last 23 innings, bumping his ERA to 5.02. But he is 5-2 because the Yankees have averaged just over nine runs over his seven starts.
The divorce of long time mates Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox and former pitching coach Lee Mazzone, has made life miserable for both of their teams. The Braves avoided dropping to 10 games behind in the National League East when they broke a four-game losing streak Sunday by beating the New York Mets 13-3. Still, the nine-game deficit beginning the day was the Braves’ largest since Aug. 11, 1993.
That was the third year of their unprecedented string of 14 division crowns (there was no champion in the strike-shortened 1994 season). The streak remains alive but appears in jeopardy with the Mets’ emergence.
Baltimore starter Bruce Chen gave homers to Kevin Mench and Mark Teixeira in his last start against Texas and Chen was battered for 11 hits and eight runs (seven earned) in four innings as he fell to 0-4. RHP Jim Brower, who ended the week ahead of all relievers with the most earned runs allowed at 14, the most walks with 11 and most hits allowed with 17. Their new pitching coach is Mazzone.
The Boston Red Sox team slugging percentage of .409 entering April 28, is ranked 22nd in baseball. The Red Sox finished in the top two in slugging each of the past three seasons. Few teams succeed while digging themselves holes, and the 2006 Red Sox have proved no exception to that trend. For that reason, the fact that Boston had been outscored by its opponents by a 25-13 margin in first innings prior to Wednesday raised something of a red flag.
The Sox own just a 5-9 mark when their opponents score first, something that has now happened in exactly half of the team’s games. It is a pattern that the team is eager to reverse.
With Thursday’s 7-4 win, the Sox now have an 11-3 record when they score first. If the recent awakening of the Boston bats (20 runs during the first three games of a homestand) points to more such nights, then the team might be able to breathe a bit easier.
RHP Bobby Jenks of the Chicago White Sox continued silencing the critics who jumped on him in spring training, saving his ninth game in nine opportunities Thursday. His velocity on his fastball is still on the rise, but the impressive thing with Jenks has been his other pitches, especially his curveball. The Sox swept the two-game series against the Mariners and in doing so won their 10th consecutive home game, tying a franchise record. They have won 19 of 23 overall, becoming the first team in the majors to reach 20 wins.
Since getting swept in the 2000 American League Division Series against the Mariners, the Sox are now 8-17 at Safeco Field.
The Indians’ inconsistent pitching staff cost the team another game Thursday, as Cleveland lost 12-4 at Oakland. Starter Jason Johnson (2-2) lasted just two innings and gave up seven runs.
Johnson had a 1.83 ERA after his first three starts, but his ERA in the last three starts is 9.64. That’s the kind of inconsistency that has plagued the Indians in the first five weeks of the season.
Equally distressing to the Indians is that Johnson has averaged less than five innings per start in his last three starts. Not pitching deep into games has been a problem for Indians starting pitchers since the beginning of the season, and the two innings Johnson pitched Thursday was a reminder of that shortcoming. Because of the starters’ inability to consistently pitch six or seven innings, the bullpen has been overworked. The result has been that the pitching overall has been wildly inconsistent.
That lack of consistency has sabotaged a terrific start to the season offensively. The Indians are at or near the top of the league in most offensive categories, but yet they are just one game over .500 (15-14).
The Indians failed to hit a double Thursday, snapping a streak in which they had at least one double in 43 consecutive games, dating to last year.
RHP Jason Johnson’s career record against Oakland fell to 1-8 after he was roughed up Thursday.
RHP Jake Westbrook, who will start Friday night in Seattle, has a 9.17 career ERA in eight appearances, six starts, against the Mariners.
C Victor Martinez has reached base in 43 consecutive games, dating to last year. That’s the longest such streak in the majors since Jim Edmonds reached in 47 straight games from June to August 2004.
DH Travis Hafner has homered in his last four games. In his last four games, Hafner is hitting .389 (7-for-18) with four home runs and 13 RBIs.
When RHP Carlos Silva surrendered a two-out, fourth-inning walk to former teammate 1B Doug Mientkiewicz on Thursday night, it snapped a streak by Twins pitchers of more than 3 1/2 games without allowing a walk. The first walk of the homestand (four games in) ended a 33-inning streak that spanned 133 plate appearances.
The Twins’ 1-0 loss to the Royals on Thursday night was their first 1-0 loss since the same team handed them one at Kansas City last Aug. 31 — beating the Twins with a run in the bottom of the ninth inning after the Twins failed to score despite 13 hits and a walk.
The Twins have been shut out four times already this season, including three times in their past seven games. This after they thought they improved the lowest-scoring lineup in the AL in 2005 — which didn’t get shut out until May 9 last year and was shut out only four times until Aug. 26. The 2005 Twins were shut out 10 times all season.
CF Tori Hunter’s infield single in the fifth inning Thursday was the 34th of the season for the Twins, who entered the day tied with Baltimore for the major league lead.