Johnson's frustration stemmed from poor run support (in three of his four losses Arizona scored a combined two runs while he was in the game) and the Diamondbacks' 17-26 record at week's end. But the five-time Cy Young Award winner, who followed his perfecto with another gem on Sunday—two runs in seven innings for a 4-3 victory over the Marlins—has been in top form all season. Johnson was 5-4 with a 2.44 ERA and led the majors in strikeouts per nine innings (11.06). Opposing hitters were batting .156 against him, the lowest average in the majors.
It's a remarkable turnaround for Johnson, 40, who last season went 6-8 with a 4.26 ERA and spent 14 weeks on the disabled list with an injured right knee that required mid-season surgery.
Against the Braves, Johnson, the oldest player ever to toss a perfect game, threw 117 pitches and struck out 13. "It was like a surreal experience. When you wake up you think, No, he couldn't have just thrown a perfect game against us," says Braves leftfielder Chipper Jones, who struck out three times. 'You think it had to be a dream."
Though Johnson is in the first year of a two-year, $33 million contract extension he signed in March 2003, there is speculation that if Arizona remains out of contention, the Big Unit might be traded this summer, Diamondbacks managing general partner Jerry Colangelo said last week that he had no intention of moving his ace, but he could change his mind given that Johnson makes nearly twice as much money as any of his teammates and Colangelo would like to cut $15 million from the team's $70 million payroll by next season.
The intrigue of Johnson's season of discontent—and dominance—may be just beginning.