10/07/06 12:50 AM ET
Big Unit's gritty start comes up short
Left-hander battles through 5 2/3 innings, but Yanks lose
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The herniated disc that Johnson pitched with in this 6-0 loss to the Tigers?
Questions about that were met with the same noise the Yankees produced against Kenny Rogers -- silence.
"I hadn't pitched in a while," said Johnson. "For the first five innings, I felt I did all right. Kenny pitched an outstanding ballgame."
Johnson, considering what a severe injury he has, held his own in Game 3 of the Division Series. He gave up eight hits and five runs over 5 2/3 innings.
Entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the Yankees were down, 3-0. That came courtesy of a three-run rally by the Tigers in the second which saw a bloop fall right in front of Bobby Abreu, a single that went right under the glove of second baseman Robinson Cano and a few other bleeders that found holes.
"It's just the way it goes," said Johnson.
Though this wasn't the Big Unit who stifled the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, he was doing his battling best.
"He was outstanding," said Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. "I've got to give him a lot of credit. He was a fighter. I'm really, really proud of what he did today. I'm really happy with what he did. I've got a lot of encouraging words. He really fought out there."
Johnson's one lament was not being able to emerge unscathed from the bottom of the sixth, when the Tigers padded their lead with a pair of insurance runs.
"The sixth inning, I walked a batter and got a double play," said Johnson. "[Carlos] Guillen hit a hard slider to Derek, almost caught. I hung a slider to Pudge [Rodriguez], pulled down the line. Then I think it was a slider to Sean Casey, he hit it in the gap. That was really about it. I can't worry too much about what our offense does and what opposing pitchers do. I have to go out and do my job. Like I said, I felt I did it for five innings and kind of regrouped a little bit and then the sixth inning, they put a couple of more hits together."
With the Yankees doing next to nothing offensively, Johnson was fighting a losing battle.
"Randy did well," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. "We've got to score for him. That was the story tonight -- we just didn't score any runs."
This was a game that was largely out of Johnson's control.
"I can't worry about what the opposing pitcher does and I can't worry about what our hitters do," he said. "I can only control what I do when I go out there."
Just the fact he was out there was saying something, considering all the pain in the back. But again, Johnson wouldn't discuss his back.
"It's not an issue," said Johnson. "I don't want to talk about that anymore."
By the end of the night, there wasn't a whole lot to say. Rogers said it all by stifling the Yankees and taking away Johnson's impact on the game.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.