The trips to Minnesota are never easy for Randy Johnson, even when he’s pitching well against the Twins.
Johnson’s father, Bud, died on Christmas Day in 1992 and was buried in Duluth, Minn. Johnson went to the gravesite Saturday, and that visit inspired him to a strong performance Sunday in the Seattle Mariners’ 5-2 win over the Twins.
Johnson (4-0) struck out 10 without walking a batter in eight innings, giving up two runs on five hits. He leads the majors in ERA (1.21) and strikeouts (49).
In May 1994, Johnson also visited the Duluth gravesite and came back to shut out Minnesota on a twohitter, 12-0.
“I pitched with a lot of emotion and a lot of heart today,” he said. “It’s hard coming to Minnesota since my dad died.”
Bud Johnson was born and lived much of his life in northern Minnesota. He was a deputy sheriff in the town of Silver Bay, but moved his family to California in 1963 when his wife, Carol, was pregnant with Randy. He was a police officer in Livermore, Calif., before he died of heart trouble.
“Now every time I pitch, I go behind the mound and say a prayer. I talk to him all the time. He was a big part of my success,” Johnson said. “People wonder what turned me around as a pitcher. I think since my dad’s death I’ve really tried to use my ability and pitch with more heart now.”
The Mariners backed Johnson with two double plays. Bobby Ayala pitched the ninth for his fifth save.
Minnesota’s Marty Cordova had his string of games with a home run stopped at five. He struck out twice and was hit by a pitch.
Seattle took a 1-0 lead in the second on Edgar Martinez’s single, a walk to Tino Martinez and an RBI groundout by Doug Strange.
Minnesota tied it in the third on a leadoff double by David McCarty and a single by Jeff Reboulet. But Johnson retired nine consecutive batters after that to take control.
Seattle scored twice in the fifth off Kevin Tapani (2-2). Luis Sojo doubled, setting up RBI singles by Joey Cora and Darren Bragg.
The Twins closed to 3-2 in the seventh on Pedro Munoz’s homer.
Tapani left in the eighth after a leadoff double by Cora. Reliever Mark Guthrie gave up Bragg’s double and an RBI single by Tino Martinez.