A struggling lineup having to face a suddenly-back-to-top-form Randy Johnson was not a collision favorable for Minnesota's hitters. The 41-year-old Johnson dominated them for eight innings during a 4-0 defeat to the Yankees on Tuesday night at hot and steamy Yankee Stadium. Twins hitters came in only batting .133 lifetime against the Big Unit.
"He had it going on today," said Twins center fielder Torii Hunter, who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts. "Randy Johnson was Randy Johnson. I don't know why people say he's getting old. I don't think he is."
After hitting Shannon Stewart with the second pitch of the game, Johnson (11-6) retired 16 in a row and no-hit the Twins for 5 2/3 innings. Juan Castro broke it up by hitting a two-out single that skipped off the mound and squeaked through the middle into center field.
"I was trying to make contact," Castro said. "I wasn't thinking too much. I hit the ball hard and hit it up the middle."
At this point, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire noticed just how bleak things had been for his lineup.
"[Third base coach] Al Newman looked at me and I realized that this is about the first time I had to actually look at him and give a sign," Gardenhire said. "That pretty much tells you you're not getting many men on base."
The only other hit off Johnson was Lew Ford's one-out double over Hideki Matsui's head in left field. Johnson did not issue a walk over eight innings and struck out 11.
For a guy who's battled a bad back and some poor outings this season, Johnson's night sometimes appeared effortless. Hitters had trouble picking up his diving slider and couldn't catch up to his low-to-mid 90's fastball. Hitters swung early in counts with Michael Cuddyer the only Twins batter to see a three-ball count. And that was in the eighth.
"You try to say, 'make him work,' but you find yourself down 0-2 when you do that," Gardenhire said. "It was a double-edged sword out there."
"Even if we were hitting the ball [well], I don't think it would have mattered coming in the series. He was so effective tonight," Stewart said. "That's how it is. The saying is good pitching beats good hitting any day of the week. When he's on like that, a lot of teams are going to have trouble against him. That's a fact."
As for Radke, with his sore neck improved, the righty has turned in three excellent performances since the All-Star break, but all without reward. He is 0-2 in his last three starts with a 1.63 ERA.
The total number of runs scored for Radke in those games? Four.
"That was unfortunate for Radke," Gardenhire said. "He pitched his tail off too. We just seem to be not scoring runs. Tonight was another one of those nights."
What was Radke thinking knowing his extremely scuffling offense had to face Johnson?
"Just like every other start. Try to throw a shutout," said a clearly frustrated Radke. "He's an excellent pitcher. I just have to do my job to keep us in the game as much as I can. The way things are going now, it's just not good enough."
That point hit home in the second inning after Radke (6-10) came off a 1-2-3 bottom of the first. A cut fastball left over the plate was smoked by leadoff hitter Alex Rodriguez for a home run to center field.
"I didn't think he got it," said Radke, who allowed two runs and five hits with two walks, two hit batters while striking out three. "It's a shame one pitch loses it."
Tino Martinez's fielder's choice grounder scored Jason Giambi later in the inning and made it 2-0. In the seventh, after Jesse Crain loaded the bases, J.C. Romero gave up Matsui's two-run single.
Even though Minnesota broke out with 10 runs Thursday, six runs Friday and five runs in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader at Detroit, the offense has been squelched of late. They were held to one run in the first game against the Tigers by journeyman Sean Douglass and two runs Sunday by a solid Jeremy Bonderman.
"We've been struggling offensively," Gardenhire said. "So you add great pitching performances on top of not swinging great, you run into a bit of problems here."