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Archive for Thursday, October 11, 2001

Johnson’s postseason skid hits 7 - St. Louis 4, Arizona 1

October 11, 2001

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— The postseason refrain was depressingly familiar to Randy Johnson: no help, no luck, no victory.

Johnson extended his major league record for consecutive playoff losses to seven Wednesday as Woody Williams and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 4-1, tying their NL series at one game each.

Arizona's Randy johnson delivers a pitch to the St. Louis
Cardinals. Johnson entered the postseason with a career-best 21-6
record in the regular season, but he suffered his seventh straight
playoff loss a major league record in the Diamondbacks' 4-1 loss
Wednesday in Phoenix.

Arizona's Randy johnson delivers a pitch to the St. Louis Cardinals. Johnson entered the postseason with a career-best 21-6 record in the regular season, but he suffered his seventh straight playoff loss a major league record in the Diamondbacks' 4-1 loss Wednesday in Phoenix.

Rookie Albert Pujols hit his first postseason homer, a two-run opposite-field shot in the first inning.

"If someone is to blame, I guess I am. I gave up three runs," Johnson said. "It seems like I've been in this position behind a microphone in the postseason every year. ... I pitched the best I could. It wasn't good enough."

Johnson was a career-best 21-6 this season. His 372 strikeouts were the third-most in baseball history, and he led the majors with a 2.49 ERA.

But the Big Unit fell to 2-7 overall in the playoffs, with his only victories in the 1995 AL division series for Seattle.

"We didn't score a run until he was out of the ballgame, and if you can't score, you can't win," manager Bob Brenly said. "I think it's unfair to point at that record and infer that somehow it's all Randy's doing. He has pitched well enough in the majority of his postseason games to win if we score any runs for him."

The Cardinals' victory came less than 24 hours after Curt Schilling's three-hit, 1-0 masterpiece. The next two in the best-of-five are in St. Louis, beginning with Game 3 Friday night.

The 35-year-old Williams' allowed one run on four hits in seven-plus innings in his playoff debut.

"One thing our team knew was the guy who was going to take the mound for us has got no fear and is just a dead game competitor," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "So based on what we've seen for two months, we thought he'd give us a chance to win."

Williams was relieved by left-hander Steve Kline after Craig Counsell led off the eighth with a pinch-hit single. Pinch-hitter Greg Colbrunn singled to make Counsell the first Diamondback to reach second in the game.

The runners advanced to second and third on Tony Womack's sacrifice bunt, and Counsell scored when Danny Bautista, pinch-hitting for Steve Finley, grounded out to third.

Luis Gonzalez, 0-for-8 in the series, ended the rally by grounding out.

"That eighth inning was a nerve-racking inning for probably all of St. Louis," Kline said, "but we got the job done and got out of it."

Helped by Jim Edmonds' diving catch in the ninth, Kline finished for a save in his first postseason appearance.

Miguel Batista, who still will start on Friday, was one of three relievers used by Brenly in the ninth. With one out and runners at first and third, pinch-hitter Kerry Robinson hit a one-bouncer to Batista.

But the confused pitcher, who probably could have caught the runner at third in a rundown or gone for a double play at second, hesitated, and finally threw to first, pulling Mark Grace off the base. Everyone was safe as the Cardinals' fourth run scored.

Williams, 7-1 with a 2.28 ERA after being acquired by St. Louis from San Diego on Aug. 2, shut down an Arizona team that had beaten him twice in three decisions when he was with the Padres this season.

"I think after yesterday's game we kind of sensed the urgency to make sure we did everything we could to win this game," Williams said. "By no means was Randy Johnson horrible today. They have two of the best pitchers I've ever seen and probably ever will see. We're very fortunate to get out of here with a split."

Consistently getting ahead of hitters, Williams matched his season-high with nine strikeouts and walked one. He held the Diamondbacks hitless until Reggie Sanders' two-out single in the fourth.

"I'll use a term that usually applies to position players. He's a gamer," Brenly said of Williams.

Williams helped himself by leading off the third with a double and scoring a run. He also made a lunging catch of Womack's line drive to start the sixth inning.

Williams said he slightly strained his groin on the play.

"But there was no way I was coming out of the game," he said.

Johnson struck out nine and walked one while allowing three runs on six hits in eight innings. For many pitchers, that would be good enough to win, but lack of run support is nothing new for the Big Unit. In four of his six losses this season, Arizona had scored just one.

Pujols, whose 3-for-7 performance against Johnson in April gave early notice of the rookie's hitting prowess, hit a 3-2 pitch into the St. Louis bullpen in right field. The two-out, 358-footer to the shortest part of the ballpark followed a walk to Edgar Renteria.

"We play 162 games. It's the same game," Pujols said. "I know there's a little bit more pressure on, but I just came in and tried to do the best I can like I did all year long."

Pujols also singled off Johnson. Placido Polanco singled twice and had an RBI sacrifice fly.

Johnson got out of a serious jam in the sixth. Polanco led off with a single, then third baseman Matt Williams' throwing error put runners at second and third with no outs. Pujols struck out on a pitch that hit his back foot. Polanco ran home, but was sent back to third base because the ball was ruled dead after it hit the batter.

Johnson walked Edmonds on four pitches to load the bases with one out. Craig Paquette struck out for the third time and Miguel Cairo popped out to end the inning.

Notes: La Russa benched Mark McGwire and J.D. Drew in favor of Cairo and Paquette. Cairo had a career .429 average against Johnson (6-for-14). Drew entered the game in the top of the seventh. ... Arizona's Matt Williams was hitless in three at-bats and was booed by the crowd for the second day in a row. He is 0-for-7 in the series, including three strikeouts.

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