Randy Johnson was everything the Houston Astros wanted when they sacrificed their future to get him: Overpowering, dominating, intimidating. Best of all, he was a winner.
Johnson, pitching fewer than 48 hours after Houston swung the big trade to get him, struck out 12 in seven innings and the Astros scored four times in the eighth to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-2 Sunday."I can't say enough about the guys scoring those runs in the eighth," Johnson said. "I wasn't really nervous. I knew there was a lot of anticipation, and I wanted to give a good effort."
Despite battling jet leg and an unfamiliarity with the hitters - he recognized only a few names while studying box scores on an all-day trip Saturday from Seattle - Johnson was just as menacing for the NL Central-leading Astros as he was for the Mariners.
His 12 strikeouts were a season high for an Astros' pitcher and gave him a major-league leading 225 for the season. It also was the eighth time in Johnson's nine starts this season that he had double-digit strikeouts.
"Strikeouts weren't a concern. Winning was," said Johnson, who was traded for three prospects on Friday.
By coincidence, Johnson's major league debut came against the Pirates in Montreal on Sept. 15, 1988, when he won 9-5 despite allowing two homers to Glenn Wilson in five innings.
"It's just fun to be back in the National League," said Johnson, who pitched 11 times for Montreal in 1988 and 1989 before being dealt to Seattle.
"It's nice to get the win because it puts everybody at ease. I've still got to learn the hitters and the ballparks but, in time, it will come.
Apparently, it took barely two days, judging from the perplexed looks on the faces of Pirates hitters who couldn't catch up with a fastball that occasionally hit 98 mph and a slider that usually broke down and in.
"It was kind of tough on Randy and kind of tough on us," the Astros' Jeff Bagwell said. "Most pitchers like to concentrate and get into their own world. He flies all day yesterday, and then his first day in the park he has to pitch. I'm sure that was hard on him, but he obviously performed pretty well."
The Big Unit, who drew as many cheers during pregame introductions as the hometown Pirates, breezed through the first four innings in his first NL start since April 1989, allowing only two singles and walking one.
So much for a difficult transition.
The Pirates finally broke through on 20-year-old rookie third baseman Aramis Ramirez's solo homer leading off the fifth. They took a 2-1 lead on singles by Mark Smith and Ramirez, a hit batsman and Kevin Polcovich's sacrifice fly in the seventh.
BRAVES 4, CARDINALS 3: Kevin Millwood shut down Mark McGwire and Ryan Klesko drove in two runs for Atlanta.
McGwire went 0-for-4 and struck out three times. The major league home run leader was hitless in 11 at-bats in the three-game series, striking out seven times and never getting a ball out of the infield.
Since hitting his 45th home run against Milwaukee last Tuesday, McGwire has gone 18 at-bats without homering.
Millwood (12-6) pitched seven innings, gave up six hits and struck out eight, including McGwire twice. Rudy Seanez struck out two in a scoreless eighth and Kerry Ligtenberg pitched a perfect ninth for his 16th save.
PADRES 4, EXPOS 1: Andy Ashby tied for the major league lead with his 15th victory and Tony Gwynn hit a two-run homer as the San Diego Padres beat the Montreal Expos.
Ashby (15-6) won for his 10th in his last 12 decisions, holding the Expos to one run on six hits in eight innings. He struck out five and walked one while tying Boston's Pedro Martinez and the Yankees' David Cone for the most wins in the majors.
Trevor Hoffman pitched a perfect ninth for his 36th save.
Ken Caminiti and Greg Myers hit solo homers in the sixth for NL West-leading San Diego. Montreal's Vladimir Guerrero went 3-for-4 with a triple and an RBI single. He is hitting .412 (40-for-97) with 11 homers and 30 RBIs in 25 games since the All-Star break.
METS 9, DODGERS 3: Armando Reynoso pitched seven strong innings and Butch Huskey homered before leaving with a hamstring injury as the New York Mets beat former teammate Brian Bohanon and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Mets won for the 10th time in 14 games. They won twice in a three-game series between NL wild-card contenders.
Reynoso (2-0) allowed only an unearned run on two hits in his second start of the season. Turk Wendell pitched two innings in relief to finish the combined five-hitter.
Bohanon (4-7), traded from the Mets to Los Angeles on July 10, gave up six runs on five hits in six innings.
BREWERS 7, DIAMONDBACKS 2: Brad Woodall pitched seven strong innings to win for the first time since June 27 as the Milwaukee Brewers avoided a three-game sweep by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Woodall (5-5) gave up one run and five hits, walked three and struck out a career-high eight, including Andy Stankiewicz to strand the bases full in the seventh.
The Brewers scored seven runs off Brian Anderson (7-10), who gave up 10 hits in four-plus innings and issued his first walk in 32 innings.
GIANTS 15, PHILLIES 3: On a huge day for hitting, Barry Bonds almost landed his biggest blow at the mound.
Bonds went 4-for-4 and drove in three runs, then tackled Philadelphia reliever Ricky Bottalico after being hit by a pitch as the San Francisco Giants beat the Phillies.
Newly acquired Ellis Burks, Bonds and Jeff Kent hit consecutive home runs in the second inning - the first time the Giants had hit three in a row since 1982 - as San Francisco defeated Philadelphia for the third straight day.
Bonds homered, tripled and singled twice. He had also stolen a base in the fifth when the Giants were up 9-2, which may have prompted what happened the next time he batted.
ROCKIES 6, CUBS 3: Neifi Perez hit a go-ahead single in a three-run seventh inning as the Colorado Rockies snapped a three-game losing streak.
Pedro Astacio (10-10) improved his record since the All-Star break to 4-1, and also helped himself with an RBI double and sacrifice bunt. He allowed five hits and three runs in seven innings.
Chuck McElroy pitched the final two innings for his second save.
Chicago's Sammy Sosa, second in the majors with 42 homers, went 0-for-2 with two walks.
REDS 5, MARLINS 1: Dennis Reyes had a career-high nine strikeouts in his Cincinnati debut and Pat Watkins homered as the Reds beat the Florida Marlins.
Reyes (1-4), recalled from the minors on Saturday, held the Marlins to one run and three hits in six innings for just his third major league victory.
Reyes, who started the season with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, was acquired by the Reds in a trade for reliever Jeff Shaw on July 4. His two previous major league wins came last year with the Dodgers.
Danny Graves pitched three scoreless innings for his third save. In the eighth, he struck out Craig Counsell with two outs and the bases loaded.
Florida starter Kirt Ojala (1-2) went seven innings, giving up two runs and four hits.
BLUE JAYS 6, TWINS 4: Roger Clemens, still pitching for Toronto after a flurry of trade rumors, struck out a season-high 14 and won his ninth straight decision.
Clemens (14-6), who has not lost in 12 starts since May 29, pitched eight innings and allowed six hits and one earned run. He tied David Cone of the New York Yankees for the AL's longest winning streak this year - San Diego's Kevin Brown currently has won 10 in a row.
Clemens fanned at least one batter in every inning and reached double digits in strikeouts for the 87th time in his career.
Shawn Green, who went 4-for-5 and scored three times, tied it in the fourth when he hit his 20th home run, connecting off Brad Radke (10-9).
ORIOLES 9, ROYALS 2: Eric Davis' two-run double stretched his hitting streak to 20 games and helped the Baltimore Orioles beat the Kansas City Royals and avoid a three-game sweep.
Jeffrey Hammonds homered, had two doubles and drove in two runs. Rafael Palmeiro also had two doubles and two RBIs as every Baltimore starter hit safely.
Rookie Sidney Ponson (5-6) won his fourth straight decision. Glendon Rusch (6-14) lost his fifth in a row.
TIGERS 3, DEVIL RAYS 2: Bobby Higginson hit a three-run homer and Brian Powell pitched seven strong innings as the Detroit Tigers defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Higginson's opposite-field drive to left-center in the fifth inning was his 20th homer of the season. He has hit at least 20 homers in three consecutive seasons.
Powell (2-2) gave up two runs and four hits and Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 19th save. Bryan Rekar (1-3) took the loss.
ATHLETICS 7, INDIANS 5: Matt Stairs hit his fourth home run in as many games and the Oakland Athletics came from behind for their fourth straight victory.
Stairs' 19th homer of the season came in the Athletics' five-run seventh inning, which they entered trailing 5-2. The A's swept the three-game series, their first sweep of three or more games at the Coliseum since 1996.
Ed Sprague, making his debut with the A's after being traded from Toronto, homered of Indians starter Charles Nagy (9-7) to lead off the seventh. Miguel Tejada followed with a double and scored on Mike Macfarlane's single.
Ryan Christenson reached first when Sandy Alomar mishandled his sacrifice bunt. Two outs later, Stairs homered off reliever Paul Assenmacher to make it 7-5.