WASHINGTON - It served as about an unglamorous a setting as you'll ever see for such a glorious milestone. But perhaps it fit for Randy Johnson, the man whom New York remembers as much for his discomfort with a cameraman as his mound brilliance.
But after Johnson joined the 300-win club last night, prevailing in the Giants' 5-1 victory over the Nationals at a rainy, largely empty Nationals Park, the 6-10 lefthander showed his soft side. It may not have been a perfect final step to this goal, but it has been a remarkable journey.
"It sounds funny, but I played 21, 22 years, I'm 45 and came upon 300 wins, [and] I'm thinking about I only have 211 more to catch Cy Young," Johnson said, smiling.
Johnson was supposed to pitch Wednesday, but the Nationals postponed it after waiting nearly four hours. This game, the first of a twi-night doubleheader, started 36 minutes after the scheduled first pitch.
Johnson was hardly The Big Unit; now 45, he struck out only two batters in six innings. He left the game after only 78 pitches; his left shoulder came up sore when he fell on it while making an off-balance throw to first on Anderson Hernandez's sixth-inning comebacker. That said, Johnson pitched with impressive efficiency, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning and mixing in his slider, split-fingered fastball and changeup along with his fastball, which peaked at 92 mph.
Johnson departed with a 2-1 lead - the run he allowed was unearned - and his bullpen teammates threw three scoreless innings to secure the milestone. When Brian Wilson struck out Wil Nieves for the final out, Johnson, clad in a black Giants sweatshirt, emerged from the dugout and hugged his teammates, and the tiny crowd offered a standing ovation. The Nationals congratulated him with a message on the scoreboard.
"It's a long-range achievement," Johnson said. "It's not a one-game or a one-year achievement. It's a career achievement. The thing I get great satisfaction out of is all of the teammates I've had. All of the relievers who have preserved leads. They all had a great deal in my success."
His wife and four children were present, and his son Tanner served as a Giants batboy - not that he helped much, joked Johnson, who struck out in his two at-bats. After the game, he got congratulatory phone calls from Giants owner Bill Neukom and commissioner Bud Selig.
Johnson, one of the most dominant lefthanders in baseball history, took so long to get here because he was a relatively late bloomer - he made his major-league debut at age 25 - and because of three back operations. He had surgery in 2006 and in 2007, and at that point, "300 wasn't on my mind," he said. "It was a matter of, I wanted to get through surgery, be healthy and prove that I could still pitch."