"It's challenging every time you go out,'' Johnson said. "To go out with a slim margin every fifth day, it takes a toll on you. You realize you have to be perfect, and I've only thrown one perfect game in my career.''
Johnson (12-13) lost his 13th game of the season and his third in a row against the Giants (76-63), despite sporting a 2.80 ERA and a miniscule 0.89 WHIP. The D-Backs (42-95) spotted the Big Unit an early 1-0 lead as he cruised through the first five innings, retiring 10 straight at one point, before getting into trouble in the sixth.
The suddenly resurgent Edgardo Alfonzo crushed a 2-1 pitch from Johnson into the left field bleachers to give the Giants a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"I don't think you ever enjoy [hitting against] Randy,'' Alfonzo said. "You just have to believe sometimes that you can do it. You're in the big leagues, and you can hit this guy.''
A comedy of rare plays decided Johnson's fate in the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Giants scored two more runs. With one out, Yorvit Torrealba hit a towering fly ball off the center field wall that bounced around, allowing the catcher to race around the bases for a triple.
Brian Dallimore pinch-hit for Brett Tomko (9-6) and hit a weak groundball that barely rolled up the third base line. Third basemen Chad Tracy picked it up and threw wildly to first base, allowing Torrealba to score from third, while Dallimore continued to run the bases and wound up on third base.
Ray Durham followed that up with a solid single to right to score Dallimore, making it 4-1 Giants, sending Johnson to the showers in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Tomko out-dueled Johnson by pitching seven strong innings, allowing only the one run on six hits, while striking out a season-high eight batters. He won his fourth straight decision and has not lost since July 29. "This is about as good as I've thrown a baseball for a while,'' Tomko said. "I don't think we're going to get caught up too much in what we're going after. We know what we're playing for, and we're keeping a short-term focus.''
The Giants bullpen did a masterful job to secure the final two innings against the D-Backs. Dustin Hermanson struck out the side in the ninth to record his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
The Giants will be off on Labor Day, before heading to Colorado for a rare two-game set with the pesky Rockies. At least it will only be a matter of days before they get to play the D-Backs again, which they are 12-4 against this season.
Game Notes: The Giants moved into a tie with the Chicago Cubs for the lead in the Wild Card race, despite having played six more games… Dustan Mohr made a nice running-catch in front of the number seven archway to open the game…Rehabbing starter Jerome Williams threw all of his pitches in a bullpen session on Sunday and remains on target for a mid-September return…Felipe Alou's home in Boynton Beach withstood Hurricane Frances, according to bench coach Luis Pujols, who is home with his family in Florida.
SFDugout.com player of the game: Brett Tomko, who suffered an ankle injury in his last start, pitched superbly and saved the Giants' bullpen for their upcoming Colorado trip. The sprained ankle seems to be a non-issue at this point.
Phil Delacruz was a transplanted Giants fan, buried in the Southland. After four strenuous years in College, studying (read: partying), he's back in the beautiful "City by the Bay" – San Francisco. Do you think he should move back to LALA land? Or do you like him where he is now and appreciate the good reads? Either way, send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org to air out your frustrations or, more likely, songs of praise.
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