"How do you explain that?" Johnson said, clearly exasperated. "That's the one thing I'm going to walk away from this game not understanding."
When Randy Johnson pitches a complete game like he did yesterday, chances are the news is good for Yankee fans. Johnson looked good early on against the White Sox. Then came the fourth inning. Johnson allowed consecutive home runs to Iguchi (fastball away, hit over the right field fence), Rowland (fastball at the shoulders hacked over the right centerfield wall), and Konerko (flat slider, low and over the plate, deposited deep into the left field bleachers). After two more hits, back up catcher Chris Widger woodchopped another fastball ball up between the shoulders and eyes for a three-run dinger:
"He makes that pitch, and 99 out of 100 times, there's no way I even put that ball in play," Widger said. "That just happened to be the one where I did. I hit it solid, but it was a two-strike swing, and I didn't know it was going. Shoot, after I hit it, I was just happy that I made contact and put it in the outfield, to be honest with you.
"I'm not that good, especially. Even the good hitters aren't going to hit that pitch very often. He put it right where he wanted to at 94 miles an hour. Somehow, the barrel of my bat hit it. I'm not going to question why it happened. I'm just happy that it did."
Six runs before you could blink. Rowand and Widger took defensive swings, but they were both strong enough to muscle the ball over the fence. It was the first time in Johnson's career that he allowed back-to-back-to-back homers, and the first time in his career that he'd ever allowed four in one inning. He's given up 29 on the year, one shy of his season record.
The Big Unit actually pitched well after the one horrific inning, but the damage had been done. Though Jose Contreras wasn't dominant he was good enough as the Yankees could not get a legitimate rally cooking and the White Sox avoided being swept, winning 6-2.
"Have you guys ever seen anything like it?" he asked reporters in something of a hopeful tone after the 6-2 loss to the White Sox.
Uh-oh. It's not a good sign when the famously defiant Johnson starts looking to reporters for answers, but it was surely a peek into his state of mind. In truth, he's looking for someone, anyone, to tell him this season is all some practical joke - that one of these days he's going to wake up and be the Big Unit again.
The Yanks badly need Johnson at a time when he's become their most unpredictable pitcher. Well, at least the bullpen got some rest. Still, it was a discouraging loss. The Yanks lost ground to the Red Sox, while they remain a half-a-game behind Oakland for the Wildcard. A win yesterday would have put them in the lead. Oh well, no use a-looking after spilt milk, right?
Around the Clubhouse
Jason Giambi, who has been laid up with a sore calf, is losing his longtime trainer Bob Alejo. Alejo is starting a job as the strength coach for the University of California at Santa Barbara this fall.
Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez went 2-4 yesterday, was robbed of a single by Joe Crede, and ran himself into an out on the base paths. Evidentally, the White Sox aren't too thrilled with Rodriguez. Step in line. Joe Torre explains:
"A-Rod (ticks) everybody off, because there's a lot of jealously involved," Torre said. "He makes the game look so easy, he plays very hard, and it's something he has to live with. I don't think he sticks it in anybody's face, because that's not his personality. It's just something that's going to follow him around."
..."The money (sure), but the talent is the reason he's making the money," Torre said. "He's a very talented kid, and he was blessed with it, but he certainly doesn't take it for granted. He works at it."
Oh, also, there is a good column on Frank Robinson by William Rhoden today in the Times.