By the time he was 29-years-old, Randy Johnson still had difficulty hitting the broad side of the barn after four-plus seasons in the majors.
When he finally tamped down a 5.7 walks-per-nine, the southpaw’s fastball could pierce right through that red-painted maple siding. Later, he would manage the same results with the ash bats held by opposing hitters who dared face him.
By the time the Arizona Diamondbacks signed the 35-year-old, affectionately nicknamed the Big Unit due to his 6’10” frame, Johnson had established himself as a true ace.
In the six seasons leading up to his four-year, $52.4M deal, he had been selected to the All-Star Game four times, won 18 or more games four times, led the American League in strikeouts three times, and finished in the top three in Cy Young Award voting four times, including the 1995 AL CYA.
Less than two years later, the DBacks acquired starting pitcher Curt Schilling at the 2000 MLB trade deadline. Although they’d fall short of the NL West that year, Arizona finished three games ahead of Colorado.
It would be a few seasons before the paths of those two rivals converged again so closely in the standings.
Johnson and Schilling helped bolster Arizona’s rotation with a one-two finish in the NL Cy Young Award voting and shared 2001 World Series MVP honors, as well as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year…
Picking up where he left off, Johnson entered his fifth start of 2002 with a 1.80 ERA against the Rockies and Shawn Chacon. Colorado’s lineup featured five hitters batting .300 or higher through the first 18 games of the season; that would not be case after facing the Big Unit on this night.
Over the course of the nine-inning affair, Johnson allowed just two hits and a walk en route to carving up Colorado to the tune of 17 strikeouts, most of any opposing pitcher until Chris Sale’s 17 in 2019.
Benny Agbayani and José Ortiz struck out in all three at bats, and only Juan Pierre did not strike out. The Rockies scratched out an unearned run thanks in part to a triple to Juan Uribe during the 7-1 victory for Arizona.
During the course of Johnson’s fourth consecutive NL Cy Young Award in 2002, he’d go on to record 15 or more strikeouts 12 times, most all-time in a single-season for an NL pitcher.
Struggling to get his 2017 season started and batting seventh, Trevor Story stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and his club down 3-0 to the San Francisco Giants at home in the bottom of the fourth.
Following three straight singles from Carlos González, Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra, Story went the other way on a 1-0 fastball from Johnny Cueto to flip the lead for his first career grand slam.
By this point in the month, Spring has usually sprung. And Charlie Blackmon springs forth for firsts on this day.
In 2014, Chuck Nazty recorded his first multi-homer game in an 8-3 win over the Giants. Three years later, following Story’s grand slam, Blackmon would record his first inside-the-park home run to cap a six-run inning that helped put away San Francisco, 6-5.
At Your Own Risk
During a 7-3 loss to the Padres on this day in 2007, Matt Holliday tied a franchise mark when he recorded two outfield assists in the same game on consecutive batters from his post in left field.
He was given the assist when Brian Giles got caught between first and second base; for those keeping score at home, the play was marked a single followed by a 7-2-3 putout. On the very next play of the sixth inning, Holliday fielded an Adrián González single and fired a cannon to cut down José Cruz at home plate.
Colorado tied a franchise record with four stolen bases in an inning during a 9-4 loss in Milwaukee in 2012. In the top of the sixth inning, Eric Young Jr, Carlos González, Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton steal a base off future Rockies catcher Jonathan Lucroy.
On This Day In Baseball History
In 1934, a little known catcher for the Washington Senators named Moe Berg sets an American League record by playing in his 117th consecutive game – over the course of three seasons – without an error. Berg, the subject of the book The Catcher Was A Spy, worked from the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and, later, the CIA.