SEATTLE — The Angels were quite aware of Randy Johnson's reputation before they stepped on the field Saturday night at the Kingdome. They've seen the antics, the head-hunting, and all of the brawls that Johnson has incited over the years.
Then, they had the privilege of becoming the latest chapter to Johnson's zany behavior. They first were humiliated at the plate, and then embarrassed that they could never get even, losing 7-2 to the Seattle Mariners.
Johnson not only struck out 10 batters--including rookie right fielder Tim Salmon four times--but was able to snicker while appearing to deliberately hit second baseman Rod Correia.
Correia, batting leadoff for the first time since last season at double-A Midland, had the gall to go three for three against Johnson with two stolen bases in his first three plate appearances. It was the first time Correia had faced Johnson, and Johnson made it quite clear that he objected to this behavior.
So, with the game well in hand in the seventh inning, Johnson drilled Correia with a 1-2 fastball on the left thigh. Correia limped to first base, trying to walk off the bruise, but was forced to leave the game in the bottom of the inning.
The Angels were livid. There was no doubt in their mind that Correia was deliberately hit, and they vowed revenge.
"I knew he was going to try to hit me," Correia said. "It was pretty damn blatant. Instead of just tipping his cap, he has to pull that crap.
"If that ball had come four inches lower, it would have caused some serious damage to my knee.
"But I'll remember this, and you're damn right I'll get even."
Joe Grahe, who had relieved Mark Langston in the sixth inning, opened the seventh by brushing leadoff hitter Bret Boone off the plate.
Angel Manager Buck Rodgers summoned seldom-used reliever Doug Linton in the eighth, and it became clear that there was ulterior motives.
Linton played it coy at the outset, striking out Greg Litton. Then, it became time to be serious.
Catcher Dave Valle stepped to the plate, and before he could dig in, Linton threw a ball behind his back. Valle was so sure that he would get plunked on the next pitch, he backed away from the plate before it even arrived. It was a strike, and Valle eventually grounded out.
Omar Vizquel was the next victim, and the first pitch breezed behind his head to the back-stop. That was it. Linton was ejected by home-plate umpire Joe Brinkman.
Still, even with Linton's two behind-the-back throws, it hardly was enough to soothe the Angels' feelings, particularly those of Angel starter Mark Langston.
"That's pretty weak, if you ask me," said Langston (12-6), who yielded seven hits and five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. "That was a purpose pitch all of the way. There's a time and place for those things, and that was a weak time.
"If a guy hits a home run off you, and then shows you up the way he runs the bases, that's one thing. This was an entirely uncalled for."
As for the game, Greg Pirkl, playing only his second major league game, took all of the suspense out of the outcome by hitting a three-run homer in the sixth inning. Langston failed to survive the Mariners' four-run, sixth-inning, marking only the fourth time this season that he has failed to last six innings.