October 6, 2005

Yanks’ ‘Big Unit’ aims to give NY edge

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Yankees ace Randy Johnson has
lost his last seven division series playoff games, but the
towering lefty known as the "Big Unit" is confident he can turn
it around against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.

The Yankees host the Angels for the next two games of their
American League Division Series with the best-of-five showdown
knotted at one game apiece.

"Unfortunately my record in the division series hasn't been
good," the 6ft 10ins (2.08m) Johnson told reporters at a news
conference at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. "I've pitched some
good ball games but lost some games.

"There's no rhyme or reason for the division series record.
But we'll get beyond that," the 42-year-old pitcher said about
a record compiled while hurling for the Seattle Mariners,
Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks over the years.

Yet the Yankees know what kind of dominating pitcher
Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, can be in the
post-season. He won three games against the Yanks in the 2001
World Series to boost Arizona to the title.


New York manager Joe Torre likes his club's chances.

"We come home, we have Randy Johnson," Torre said in a
teleconference call on Thursday. "Once you come home that way,
you realize you have two games here and we have the ability to
win the series at home.

Johnson, 42, struggled with consistency early in the 2005
season after coming over in the off-season in a trade with

But after making some minor adjustments to his pitching
motion, he found his groove. He finished the season with six
wins in a row for a 17-8 record, clinching the AL East Division
title against the Red Sox last week in Boston in his last start
of the regular season.

Veteran righthander Paul Bird, 12-11 with a 4.23 ERA, is
scheduled to start on Friday for the Angels.

"I feel like there's a lot of reserved energy in my tank,"
said Johnson. "I didn't throw nearly as many innings as I
probably have in the past, about 225, so I'm ready to go.

"I feel very comfortable with where I'm at now."

Johnson said his team mates are also very comfortable about
being in the post-season.

The Yankees, baseball's most storied franchise with 26
World Series titles, are making their 11th successive trip to
the playoffs, a span that includes six trips to the World
Series and four Series crowns.

"When I first got here, they said there's two seasons and I
go, 'really?' They said, the regular season and the
post-season. And we all know how it came down to the last few
games to whether there would be a second season.

"But that's how confident and that's the type of history
that is here that I've always respected and admired."