WASHINGTON – The emotions finally flowed for Randy Johnson when the final out was made.
A hug for his son, who was serving as batboy. Hugs for every teammate, plus a really big one for his manager. The game ball presented to his wife as his three daughters beamed with pride. A news conference that lasted a half-hour from a player who usually doesn’t have much to say.
The Big Unit admits he can come across as surly, and he did his best over the past few weeks to downplay his pursuit of 300 wins. Once he got there – with a steady, six-inning performance in the San Francisco Giants’ 5-1 victory over the Washington Nationals in the opener of a doubleheader Thursday – he was free to express that, yes, it really is a big deal.
“I think it kind of hit me when I walked on the field,” Johnson said. “It’s a long-range achievement. It’s not a one-game or a one-year achievement, it’s a career achievement. Who knows how many teammates I’ve had over my 21 years, but they had a great deal to do with my success. I’m going to think about this for a long time.”
In the nightcap, the Giants completed a sweep with a 4-1 win. The game was called with two outs in the top of the sixth after a delay of 67 minutes.
Johnson became the 24th pitcher to reach the 300-win milestone, and he did it as a mature pitcher, not the overpowering tangle of arms and legs who was all about strikeouts early in his career. He walked two, struck out two, allowed only an unearned run and threw 50 of his 78 pitches for strikes. He faced four batters above the minimum and got shutout relief from his bullpen.
“I get more gratification out of that because of the way I’m doing it now than the way I did it 10 years ago,” Johnson said.
It was hardly the ideal setting for a historic moment. The crowd was small and the weather was wet. Some of the few thousand fans who witnessed the feat chanted “Randy! Randy!” in the bottom of the ninth, and he tipped his hat to them all.
Family and friends from all over flew in for the occasion to see Johnson (5-4) become the first pitcher to get 300 on his first try since Tom Seaver in 1985.
“He’s become one of the dinosaurs with the other 23, and he didn’t want to make a big deal out of it,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “But you could see after the game – I’m sure he’s had his eye on this 300 for a while.”
Johnson had to leave the game because of what he called a “senior moment” – his decision to go after a comebacker that he knocked down in the sixth inning. The 6-foot-10 Johnson barehanded the ball while falling forward to throw out the runner and bruised his pitching shoulder on the play. He’s expected to make his next start.
San Francisco led 2-1 when Johnson departed, but he nearly wound up with a no-decision. The Nationals loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth before Adam Dunn was called out on strikes with a full count on a knee-high fastball from reliever Brian Wilson.
The 45-year-old Johnson is the sixth left-hander to win 300 games and the second-oldest pitcher to reach the milestone. Knuckleballer Phil Niekro was 46 when he won his 300th with the New York Yankees in 1985.
Johnson had an efficient outing, not flashy. He didn’t allow a baserunner until a walk in the fourth inning and didn’t give up a hit until Elijah Dukes’ broken-bat single up the middle in the fifth.
Johnson then walked Austin Kearns, putting runners on first and second with none out. But second baseman Emmanuel Burriss thwarted a rally with the defensive play of the game. On a one-hopper that hit the mound, Burriss dived to his right to stab the ball backhanded, then flipped it out of his glove to shortstop Edgar Renteria to start a dazzling double play.
Johnson got the run support he needed early, when Juan Uribe’s RBI grounder and Burriss’ RBI single off Jordan Zimmermann (2-3) gave the Giants a 2-0 lead in the second. San Francisco added three runs in the ninth.
After Johnson was pulled, relievers Brandon Medders, Jeremy Affeldt (Northwest Christian High) and Wilson took care of the rest. Wilson also worked the ninth for his 13th save.
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