|Johnson struggles in return to the desert|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2007 17:24|
Six months after back surgery, the Big Unit gave up six runs in five innings against San Diego, his first start for the Diamondbacks since 2004.
Johnson struck out seven but gave up six hits, including two home runs and two doubles. He walked four - two intentionally - and hit two batters. He threw 97 pitches, 53 for strikes.
The 43-year-old Johnson pitched a perfect game for Arizona three years ago, then spent two frustrating seasons with the New York Yankees, failing to win both of his postseason starts. Johnson, who needs 20 victories for 300, pitched in Phoenix for the first time since Oct. 2, 2004, when he defeated the Padres.
He showed good command early but couldn't protect a pair of leads.
In the first inning, Johnson struck out leadoff man Marcus Giles on a 3-2 pitch, got Jose Cruz Jr. on a long fly to right field and then struck out Brian Giles looking. Johnson received a standing ovation from the sparse crowd behind the dugout as he walked off the mound.
After he was staked to a 2-0 lead, Johnson gave up a two-out, two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the third. The Diamondbacks took a 3-2 lead in the bottom half, but Johnson gave up a tying homer to Cruz in the fifth. Khalil Greene added a three-run double.
Johnson faced fellow 43-year-old David Wells. At a combined age of 87 years and 300 days, Johnson and Wells became the oldest pair of left-handers to start a major league game. The previous mark was set April 12, when 44-year-old Jamie Moyer of Philadelphia opposed 41-year-old Tom Glavine of the New York Mets.
Johnson no longer has the overpowering fastball that helped him win five Cy Young Awards, four with the Diamondbacks. And after one time through the batting order the Padres began to tee off.
Arizona trailed 6-3 when Johnson left for a pinch-hitter in the fifth.