PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Randy Johnson gets the start for the
Arizona Diamondbacks when they begin defense of their title on
Tuesday night in Game One of their National League Division
Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, a rematch of last
season's five-game thriller.
Johnson (24-5, 2.32 ERA) is the front-runner for the Cy Young
Award - which would be his fourth straight and fifth overall -
after closing another remarkable season with a 5-0 mark and a
0.68 ERA in his last five starts. The "Big Unit" is 11-1 in his
last 14 starts.
The 6-10 lefthander is just 5-6 with a 3.65 ERA against St.
Louis in his career, including a victory here on April 16 in
which he yielded three runs and eight hits in seven innings in a
5-3 triumph. Johnson also lost to St. Louis here in Game Two of
the NLDS a year ago by yielding three runs and six hits in
eight innings in a 4-1 defeat that extended his record
postseason losing streak to seven games.
"Obviously, I know their strengths," Johnson said. "I know from
past experience what I do and what I don't want to do. And the
bottom line - you can be prepared all you want, but you have to
go out and execute the pitches."
Arizona won a 2-1 thriller in Game Five a year ago when Tony
Womack singled in Danny Bautista with two outs in the bottom of
the ninth inning off Steve Kline. The Diamondbacks won their
three games by a combined four runs in the series.
Matt Morris (17-9, 3.42 ERA) started that game for St. Louis and
allowed just a fourth-inning solo homer to Reggie Sanders in
eight innings. Morris also received the loss in Game One last
year, when he went the distance and was outdueled by Curt
"I'm coming back to the same environment, a lot of familiarity
is around," Morris said. "I think everybody's adrenaline will be
pumping. You're not searching for that extra level as far as
putting more pressure on yourself. I'm going to go out there and
be focused and be calm and just focus more on my physical
Morris opened the season with four straight victories but
struggled a bit in the immediate aftermath of teammate Darryl
Kile's death. He still managed to fashion a 9-4 road record with
a 2.94 ERA this year and won at Arizona on April 17, when he
yielded four runs and nine hits in seven innings in an 8-4
The righthander is 1-1 with a 2.84 career ERA in the regular
season against the Diamondbacks.
"Well it's different, I'm not going to lie to you," Arizona
manager Bob Brenly said. "Luis Gonzalez has been our best run
producer over the last couple of years and a constant threat no
matter how he was swinging the bat at a particular time.
Counsell is one of the best clutch hitters in the National
League before his injury. So you take two pieces like that out
of anybody's lineup and it's going to be a different look."
Gonzalez hit 28 homers and drove in 103 runs for Arizona. Center
fielder Steve Finley, who hit .287 with 82 runs and had 89 RBI,
will have to help pick up the slack.
The Cardinals won five of nine meetings with the Diamondbacks
this season, including a three-game sweep last week at home. But
St. Louis does not feel like it will not benefit from any
"The history of a short series is that everything gets put in
the past and it's all about the series you're playing and who
plays the best for three out of five games, St. Louis manager
Tony La Russa said. "You can never draw anything from what
happened, whether you lost two or 14 or whatever."
St. Louis received strong seasons from Albert Pujols and Edgar
Renteria this year. The Cardinals also received a boost from the
acquisition of All-Star third baseman Scott Rolen, who hit 14
homers and had 44 RBI in 55 games.
The Cardinals also are playing with the memory of Kile on their
minds. Morris indicated on Monday that he has chosen to use
the tragic death of Kile as part of his motivation to pitch