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Johnson, Mariners Tame Tigers

The Colorado Rockies could be the first National League team to object to interleague play.

When the American League-National League games start later this week, the Rockies travel to Seattle - where Friday they will face a force unlike any they have encountered. Randy Johnson, all 6-feet-10 of him, will be slinging his wicked fastball and trap-door slider toward the plate.

Sunday, Johnson came within six outs of becoming the first pitcher to throw two career no-hitters against the Tigers. The left-hander allowed a first-pitch single on a high slider to Phil Nevin in the eighth, then preserved a one-run lead by striking out the side, giving him 15 whiffs.

Seattle added a run in the ninth, and reliever Bobby Ayala nailed down the last three outs of Seattle’s 2-0 win.

In his last three starts, Johnson has allowed no runs and seven hits while fanning 39 in 25 innings. He has pitched 29 straight scoreless innings, five short of Mark Langston’s club record, almost halfway to Orel Hershiser’s big-league record of 59.

Like 11-0 Roger Clemens, Johnson (9-1) appears to be a better pitcher than ever, with better control.

One can only shudder for these Rockies sluggers who have never tried to get the bat around on his fastball or diving slider.

“He’s sharp,” Mariners manager Lou Piniella said. “His breaking ball right now is falling off the table.”

A decent crowd - 20,287 - came out to Tiger Stadium on Sunday. For the first seven innings, the only impetus to cheer came between the fourth and fifth, when the Tigers made an announcement saluting the Red Wings and ran the video of Steve Yzerman receiving the Stanley Cup.

Nevin, the only Tigers starter who hadn’t struck out, noticed Johnson’s pattern leading to his at-bat in the eighth.

“With about the last six hitters before me, he had made the first pitch a slider,” Nevin said. He lined the ball into leftfield, the cleanest of hits.

The crowd let out a cheer of relief.

Tags: baseball