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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

April 20, 2009 at 10:57 AM

Will Big Unit win his 300th in Seattle?

unitmullet.jpg

Our old friend Randy Johnson (love that mullet!) was superb on Sunday, taking a no-hitter into the seventh against Arizona en route to his 296th career victory.

My old Seattle Times colleague Bob Sherwin, now writing for Examiner.com, points out that if certain circumstances fall into place, he could be going for his 300th win when the Mariners play the Giants in an interleague series at Safeco Field, May 22-24.

The first circumstance, of course, is that the rotation has to line up for Johnson to pitch in Seattle. That looks promising. If the Giants keep their five-man rotation intact, not skipping anyone’s turn despite day’s off, Unit lines up to pitch the series opener on May 22. And if the Giants keep Johnson pitching every fifth day, he lines up to pitch the series finale on May 24.

The second circumstance that needs to happen — a little trickier — is that Johnson has to win three more games prior to that start in Seattle. Two more wins before then won’t do (unless Giants manager Bruce Bochy plans to bring the Big Unit out of the bullpen after he starts, in a reprise of the 1995 playoffs). And four more wins, bringing him to 300 victories prior to his Seattle appearance, certainly won’t do.

No, three is the operative number. And Johnson should have five starts prior to coming to Seattle. Three wins in five starts seems reasonable, doesn’t it? We’ll see how that goes.

But if the stars align, and Big Unit comes into Seattle with 299 wins, that should be an amazing spectacle. The Johnson-Griffey matchup alone will be electric.

Johnson has pitched three times at Safeco since he was traded to Houston on July 31, 1998, and has dominated in two of those games. In all three, he received a huge ovation (somewhat surprising, since there was a prominent school of thought that Johnson had tanked the first part of the 1998 season; he was 9-10, 4.33 before the trade, and 10-1, 1.28 after. I never bought into that, by the way).

Johnson’s first appearance in Seattle came July 20, 1999 (the sixth game ever played at Safeco Field), and he pitched an eight-hit shutout, striking out 10 in a 6-0 Arizona win. Griffey went 0-for-3 with a strikeout, and was hit by a Big Unit pitch, which Junior recalled with amusement in spring training.

“He just started laughing,” Griffey said. “It brushed me, didn’t hit me square.”

Then, in a memorable matchup on Aug. 31, 2005, Johnson out-pitched Felix Hernandez in a 2-0 Yankees’ win, blanking the Mariners on three hits over seven innings. On Aug. 24, 2006, still with the Yankees, Johnson went the distance at Safeco but absorbed the loss as Jarrod Washburn and the M’s won, 4-2.

That Giants’ series could be a real doozy if local hero Tim Lincecum gets a start as well as Johnson perhaps going for 300. We’ll see how it plays out over the next month.

(AP photo)

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