Almost Straight A's -- M's Johnson Loses No-Hitter In Ninth, Stops Oakland

If nothing else, Randy Johnson's near no-hitter was inspiring.

"When you see a game like this, you just want to go get the ball and run right out there on the mound," said Seattle Mariner pitcher Brian Holman, after watching Johnson stop Oakland on one hit for a 4-0 victory in front of 25,419 last night at the Kingdome.

Mike Gallego hit a first-pitch single solidly to left field with none out in the ninth to end Johnson's bid at a second career no-hitter. Johnson loaded the bases but struck out the final two batters, including powerful Jose Canseco on a 1-2 slider, to end the game.

"You can't help but be excited. You feel every emotion in your body with a game like this," Holman said. "Games like this lift up the whole team."

The Mariners had little time to savor the dramatic victory. The Mariners sought a four-game sweep of the A's this afternoon (12:35 p.m. start) and hoped to take another step toward the Minnesota Twins, who lead the American League West. Last night's victory moved Seattle and Kansas City, tied for fourth place, 6 1/2 games behind the Twins.

Johnson got all the support he needed in the fourth inning on Ken Griffey Jr.'s 16th home run, a two-run, 405-foot shot to left-center field. The homer was Griffey's second in two nights.

"When you can pitch like that against a team like Oakland, it really picks up the staff," Manager Jim Lefebvre said.

"After Holman's near-perfect game against the A's last year

(April 20), we got real hot. Then after Johnson's no-hitter (June 2 against Detroit) we had a good stretch."

The Mariners won five of seven after Holman lost his perfect game in the ninth inning in Oakland last season. They won three of five after Johnson's no-hitter.

Gallego, the A's No. 7 hitter, was an unlikely hitter to break up the no-hitter. He had struck out meekly in the third inning, one of Johnson's 12 strikeouts. He flied out to right field on a late swing in the sixth.

"I knew I couldn't hit his slider tonight," Gallego said.

But after walking Scott Brosius for the second time to start the ninth, Johnson wanted to get ahead in the count. He started with a fastball, inside and high. Brosius broke for second as Gallego connected.

"I was so upset," Johnson said. "If I didn't walk Brosius, they don't get a chance to work a hit-run play. The pitch Gallego hit wasn't even a strike, but he had to swing at it to protect the runner with the play on."

No, he didn't. "It was not a hit-and-run play," Gallego said. "It was a straight steal, and I just liked the pitch. And, yeah, it was up and in and might not have been a strike."

The line shot went cleanly through the left side, ending the no-hit tension but generating Seattle concern about the game's outcome.

"It was a tremendous letdown," said Lefebvre, who quickly visited Johnson. "I told him, `Great game. Outstanding. Now let's refocus.' He really wanted to finish it off.

"He still had good stuff; his pitch count was all right; he was throwing strong."

Pinch-hitter Brook Jacoby struck out on three pitches before Rickey Henderson walked to load the bases, bringing up the potential tying runs in Willie Wilson and Canseco.

Wilson struck out without a stir. That brought up Canseco, who has two career grand slams as well as 31 home runs and 87 runs batted in this season. However, Canseco was in the throes of an 0-for-20 slump.

Johnson got Canseco to swing at a slider that dropped low and inside. He didn't have a chance.

"I'm really proud of Randy Johnson," Holman said. "The bases were loaded there, and he went after them. He said, `I want Jose Canseco.'

Johnson threw 137 pitches, 87 strikes.

"As far as being overpowering," said catcher Dave Valle, "he was the best I've ever caught."

Harold Reynolds, Mariner second baseman, added, "I was as disappointed as he (Johnson) was. But that was fun."

And frustrating. "Frustrated, yes," Johnson said. "But even though I had lost the no-hitter, I couldn't spend an instant thinking of it. . . . Our team needs wins, and I had to get this one for us.

"The important thing is the win. There will be more chances for no-hitters."

Times staff reporter Bob Finnigan contributed to this article. ---------------------------



Randy Johnson was at it again.

No, not that no-hit business. With his ability, the Seattle Mariners' left-handed skyscraper might do that any time out.

He might have done it last night for the second time in two years, but Mike Gallego's ninth-inning single turned Johnson's 4-0 victory over Oakland into a one-hitter.

What Johnson, who allowed only one base runner in those first eight innings, did again was lose his lucky charm - don't bother asking what it is.

Johnson, builder of mystiques, won't say. "If I told you what it was," he responded with southpaw psychology, "it wouldn't be a lucky charm any more."

Whatever it is, he lost it in Comiskey Park as he was beating the White Sox June 26. But he had a replacement sent to him in Toronto and four days later pitched eight three-hit innings in a game the Blue Jays came back to win in the ninth.

Now, after dealing a dozen strikeouts to the Athletics to go with the late and lonely hit, he had misplaced the token again.

But Johnson figured out where it was. "Excuse me," he said, interrupting a postgame interview to head for the clubhouse laundry area.

Whatever it is, the charm apparently fit in the back pocket of his uniform pants. Whatever it is, it fit in a little cloth bag, on the shelf of his locker, where he put it when he returned.

Whatever it is, it has helped turn around a season that started at 3-6 with an 8-2 stretch that has made him one of the American League's best since the All-Star break.

"I'll tell you at the end of the season," Johnson said. -- Pitcher Scott Bankhead struck out eight batters in four innings in a rehabilitation outing yesterday, but he believes he won't be back with the Mariners until September.

Bankhead, working his ailing shoulder, pitched for the Bellingham Mariners against Yakima in a Northwest League game before last night's Mariner-A's game. The Baby M's won 7-4, with Bankhead picking up the victory in relief of No. 1 draft choice Shawn Estes.

"I don't see them bringing me back until Sept. 1 (when the rosters are expanded)," Bankhead said. "They want to see me coming out of the bullpen. I just hope I can stay healthy the rest of the year."

Bankhead's first inning was a beauty. He struck out the side on nine pitches. He allowed one hit and walked one in four innings. -- Estes worked the first five innings, leaving with a 4-4 tie. Of his first six outs, five were strikeouts. He finished with seven. He gave up three hits and four runs. He also had three balks. -- Larry Pedegana, the Mariners' orthopedic surgeon, operated on two players yesterday, outfielder Henry Cotto (torn right rotator cuff) and reliever Keith Comstock (torn labrum).

"I never say it's successful (surgery) until they come back, but they were uneventful," Pedegana said. "The odds are both will be back for spring training." -- Outfielder Ken Griffey Sr. faces surgery Aug. 27 in Cincinnati for a bulging disk in his neck.

"They said I'll have two months in a brace," said Senior. "It will be a 3 1/2-month rehab." -- Oakland pitcher Andy Hawkins, squeezed out of the picture because of the acquisition of Ron Darling and the team'sconfidence in rookie Joe Slusarski, was released by the Athletics. -- The rotation for the California series: tomorrow night, Bill Krueger (9-5, 2.93) vs. Joe Grahe (1-3, 6.23); Saturday, Rich DeLucia (10-7, 4.36) vs. Chuck Finley (14-5, 4.07); Sunday, Brian Holman (10-11, 3.60) vs. Jim Abbott (11-8, 3.17); Monday, Randy Johnson (11-8, 3.60) vs. Kirk McCaskill (9-15, 4.19).

- Bob Finnigan and Bob Sherwin --------------------------



W L Pct. GB . Minnesota 68 47 .591 -- . Chicago 66 48 .579 1 1/2 . Oakland 64 51 .557 4 . Seattle 61 53 .535 6 1/2 . Kansas City 60 53 .531 7 . Texas 57 54 .514 9 . California 55 58 .487 12 .