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Perfect night for Unit

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Perfect night for Unit

Postby WebHamster » Wed May 19, 2004 1:00 am

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Arizona lefthander Randy Johnson hasn't received a lot of run support lately, but the Big Unit didn't need much help on a magical Tuesday night in the Diamondbacks' 2-0 win over Atlanta at Turner Field. The future Hall of Famer was on target all evening against the Atlanta Braves and mowed down all 27 batters he faced for his spot in baseball history with his first career perfect game.

At 40 years old, Johnson became the oldest pitcher to ever throw a perfect game. The five-time Cy Young Award winner worked incredible with catcher Robby Hammock, fooling Atlanta hitters on some occasions, while blowing pitches past others with speed that rivaled his several seasons with 300-plus strikeouts.

Not only was it just the 17th perfect game in baseball history and the 15th in modern day annals, but Johnson's performance was even more dominant when looking at some of the other final statistics. He struck out 13 and threw 117 pitches, with 87 going for strikes. He went to three balls on just one hitter, but Johnny Estrada struck out swinging in the bottom of the second inning.

"Anybody is capable of doing anything on any given day," Johnson said.

This was the first perfect game since David Cone did it for the New York Yankees against Montreal on July 18, 1999. It was also the first one in the National League since July 28, 1991, when the Expos' Dennis Martinez accomplished the feat against the Dodgers.

Johnson had one previous no-hitter. That came when he pitched for the Seattle Mariners against Detroit on June 2, 1990. Johnson became the fifth pitcher to throw no-hitters in both leagues, joining Young, Jim Bunning, Hideo Nomo and Nolan Ryan.

It was also the first no-hitter in Diamondbacks history and the first time Atlanta had been no-hit since April 7, 1979 when Ken Forsch of Houston turned the trick.

The Diamondbacks had scored just one run in Johnson's previous two starts and although they didn't do much damage against Mike Hampton, who also threw a complete game, two runs were easily enough on this 73-degree night at Turner Field. The crowd of 23,381 stood cheering in the ninth inning and chanted "Randy!, Randy!, Randy!" after he struck out pinch-hitter Eddie Perez for the final out of the game and was mobbed by his teammates at the mound.

"It ranks up there with a lot of great accomplishments," Johnson said. "The most important thing was winning the game. Looking at it now, I would have been a little upset if I lost it in the ninth. But everybody played well and we got the win, so that is the most important thing."

Arizona gave Johnson some support courtesy of Alex Cintron's RBI double in the second inning and Chad Tracy's run-scoring single in the seventh.

Johnson logged his 195th career double-digit strikeout game, 20 behind Ryan's all-time record. While it will be a stretch for Johnson to catch Ryan in that regard, the Big Unit is approaching another milestone. He is 48 strikeouts away from 4,000 for his career.

A nine-time All-Star, the perfect game was the icing on the cake on Johnson's career. He was named co-MVP of the World Series in 2001 and in 2002 he won the pitching triple crown.

If there was any question that Johnson wasn't going to return to championship form after an injury-plagued 2003 campaign, Tuesday night erased all those doubts and further solidified his legacy as one of the greatest lefthanders of all-time.
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