Johnson is so nasty against lefthanded batters that, of the 17 at bats lefties had against him through his start last Friday, he had 14 strikeouts. "Let me tell you, no righthanded hitter is comfortable against him," says Minnesota's Kirby Puckett, who nevertheless is a career .309 batter against Johnson. "It's a scary feeling. All I do is shorten my swing, be quick and try to go up the middle. If you've got any kind of a long swing, you've got no chance. And he's tougher now that he locates the ball so well. Randy and Roger Clemens are the only people in this game who are capable of throwing a no-hitter every time they go out there."
The Intimidator is smiling, already showered, dressed and becalmed after a miserable 10-1 loss to the Twins last Friday night. Minnesota pounded him for eight runs on nine hits in six innings in what was only his seventh defeat in 44 starts since Aug. 14, 1993. (He is 27-7, with a 2.81 ERA and 413 strikeouts in 329? innings, over that span.) Puckett accounted for four of the runs with a grand slam. "I'm not going to lose sleep over it," Johnson says. "I couldn't have given up a grand slam to a nicer guy in baseball."
Maybe it was the pancakes. Lisa made the batter, but for the first time this year she left the cooking to her mom.
Before leaving the Mariner clubhouse, Johnson pours himself a cup of milk and downs it. He pulls on a blue-and-yellow windbreaker and walks out the door into the chill of the night. Lisa is there for him. Down a dimly lit concourse, past dumpsters and forklifts and concession people going home, they walk hand-in-hand, never letting go until they reach Johnson's white Suburban for the ride home. Not for one moment does he look like a losing pitcher.
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