If knowing where you went wrong is half the battle in correcting your flaws, then Randy Johnson should have this pitching thing licked.
Johnson, the 6-foot-10 lefthander for the Seattle Mariners, was cruising along last night, more than halfway to his second career no-hitter, having held the Orioles hitless for five innings.
Sure, Johnson had walked a couple of batters during that stretch, but the Mariners had gotten a double play and caught Craig Worthington stealing on a busted hit-and-run play, not to mention Johnson's six strikeouts to that point.
And then he faced leftfielder Brady Anderson to start the sixth and it all fell apart, in one big hurry.
"In that sequence, I just felt like I pitched Brady Anderson backward. I got ahead of him with a strike and then I threw him three fastballs in a row and I got behind him," said Johnson. "I probably should have thrown him, second-guessing myself, a breaking ball."
But he didn't and he walked Anderson. And after Bill Ripken's sacrifice bunt, Johnson walked Mike Devereaux, and after Randy Milligan's strikeout, he walked Cal Ripken.
He wasn't finished either, walking Dwight Evans to force in a run. Then he lost the no-hitter on a Bob Melvin dribbler to third baseman Edgar Martinez that drove in another run.
End of no-hitter, end of shutout and, eventually a 2-1 loss for Johnson.
"I had one bad inning. I'm going to walk my share of guys. I'm not ever going to try and be a finesse pitcher," said Johnson.
Actually, Johnson, who no-hit Detroit last June 2 in Seattle, came very close to getting out of the jam.
With two down in the sixth, and the bases loaded, he faced Evans, and the two battled, with the veteran Evans not only fouling off a couple of good pitches, but also getting the benefit of calls on pitches that could have been the third strike and ended the inning.
"There were some questionable calls. There was a check swing on one of them and then one was on the corner," said Johnson. "But if the game's that close, you have to make a better pitch than that without a doubt. That's the way it goes.
"Evans kept fouling off pitches that were over the plate. And one pitch was outside and that was ball four. I'm not going to lob the ball so he can hit a grand slam. That would have really hurt me, or if he had hit a ball in the gap."
Johnson claimed not to be interested in a no-hitter, refusing to second-guess the scoring on the first hit, which could have been ruled an error on Martinez's wide throw. But Melvin thought he saw different. Melvin said that as the no-no developed, Johnson tried to keep the Orioles off-balance by throwing them the opposite of what they were expecting.
"He threw a lot of breaking balls on fastball counts," said Melvin, who had two of the Orioles' three hits.
In retrospect, it wasn't Johnson but the Mariners' inopportunistic offense that led to their demise. Seattle left 10 runners on base, including the bases full in a scoreless second inning.
"He [Johnson] had great stuff," said Seattle manager Jim Lefebvre. "He had a no-hitter going up until then. We should have had three or four runs by then, I thought."
"I don't know how many guys were left on base. That's not my objective," said Johnson. "I just have to go out there and do my job. Win or lose, I go out there and hold the team I'm playing against to as few runs as possible and hope my team does its job. Whatever happens, happens."