In the grand scheme of things, it’s one game out of 162. In the here and now, it’s a big win for a young team that’s figuring out where it matches up with the league’s elite.
Randy Johnson outdueled Daisuke Matsuzaka in a hyped-up pitching matchup that came as advertised, and the D-Backs avoided a three-game sweep with a 5-1 win over the Red Sox in front of 46,622 on Sunday afternoon at Chase Field.
Johnson gave up one run in six innings of four-hit ball and struck out nine, improving his record to 4-2 on the year. Matsuzaka gave up two runs and four hits in six innings of work and also struck out nine.
Boston blew out Arizona in the first game of the series Friday and the D-Backs gave up an eighth-inning lead in an eventual loss Saturday. With a road trip to New York looming against the suddenly scorching Yankees, the victory held more importance than just the ‘W’ added in the standings.
“This is an extremely young team, inexperienced,” Johnson said. “They saw the best team in baseball (and) what it takes to win. You can’t give them extra outs, you have to do the little things right, and they competed against a real good team.”
Johnson led the charge Sunday. He struck out six of the first eight batters and gave up only one costly hit — a Mike Lowell double down the left field line to score Manny Ramirez and give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the top of the fourth.
The D-Backs tied it up in the bottom of the frame, and an RBI double by Carlos Quentin in the sixth was enough for Johnson and three relievers.
“(Johnson) has had a history of doing those things (stopping losing streaks),” D-Backs manager Bob Melvin said. “Every time he goes out there you feel good about it.”
Arizona added three insurance runs in the eighth inning with the help of Boston miscues. Conor Jackson and Stephen Drew led off with walks, as Drew battled back from an 0-2 hole after failing on two sacrifice bunt attempts to get the free pass.
Quentin followed with a sacrifice bunt that Mike Timlin fielded cleanly, but threw over second basemen Dustin Pedroia’s head and into right field as Jackson and Drew scored. Timlin got Mark Reynolds and Eric Byrnes to pop out, but Chris Young hit a two-out single to score Quentin for the 5-1 lead.
Jose Valverde stranded runners on the corners in the ninth when Coco Crisp lined out to Young in center.
“It was good to get this one,” Quentin said. “No one wants to get swept at home.”
After taking two of three from the Mets in New York from June 1-3, the Diamondbacks are 3-3 against two of the best teams in baseball in the past 10 days.
“To play both those guys the past two weekends, and to come out of there doing pretty well, I think it’s a good indication of where this team is,” Eric Byrnes said.
The next three days will be further indication. The Yankees seem to be hitting their stride, and the young D-Backs must now enter the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium.
“That’s something that they’re going to have to experience,” Byrnes said of the younger players. “Once the game starts, I think these guys know it’s just baseball.”
In what will likely be a season-long occurance, Johnson jumped over Roger Clemens for second on the all-time strikeout list. Clemens, making his first start of the season, moved past Johnson on Saturday with his 4,611th strikeout. But Johnson struck out nine Sunday and now has 4,614, putting him in second behind Nolan Ryan’s 5,714.