MLB Betting: Big Unit Goes for No. 300
by Matt Severance - 06/03/2009
It's not too often here at Doc's Sports that we will preview an individual baseball game, but Wednesday night's San Francisco Giants at Washington Nationals matchup is worthy of its own story despite the fact the Giants are at .500 and the Nats have the worst record in baseball.
That reason: Randy Johnson's first attempt at career win No. 300.
This may well be the last time we see a pitcher with 300 career wins in this era of specialized relievers and when starters often don't go past seven innings (not to mention players are financially secure early in their career). The closest behind the Big Unit to the magic number is the Phillies' Jamie Moyer at 250 wins, and there's zero chance the 46-year-old wins another 50, much less another 10 the way he is pitching now.
Next is Andy Pettitte at 220, but the 37-year-old might well retire after this season and also has no shot to reach 300. The only active pitcher in his 30s who has a very outside chance is Toronto's Roy Halladay. But with 140 wins at age 32, he would have to win 20 games or so a season for the next eight - and that's if he pitches until age 40.
Certainly if you were given odds on the next active pitcher to reach 300, the Yankees' CC Sabathia might be the best bet, as he has 122 victories at age 28 and should be on a very good team for the next several years.
But back to betting on tonight's Giants-Nats game. Johnson is trying to become the 24th member of the 300-victory club and the first since Phil Niekro in 1985 to get the milestone win on his first try. Perhaps guys are too amped up on their first attempt, as legends such as Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine all failed in try No. 1.
The opposing team also has the motivation of not wanting to be part of history, so that might play a role in why so many good pitchers have failed in their first attempt at 300. Even some members of the Giants admit they might be feeling the pressure to help get it done tonight.
"You're going to be in the [record] book, too, because everybody's going to say, 'Randy won 300, but I played in that game,' " San Francisco shortstop Edgar Renteria said.
The Unit is 4-4 with a 5.71 ERA in 10 starts this season and is coming off one of his best starts of the year, holding the Braves to one run and three hits in six innings last week. That was his second game in a row in which he allowed only one earned run, which was proceeded by a stretch where Johnson allowed 18 earned runs in 14 2/3 innings.
Wouldn't it be ironic if Johnson got it against the Nats? Remember, the former Expos were Johnson's first franchise (drafting him in 1985), although he had just 10 starts for Montreal before being dealt to Seattle in the 1989 Mark Langston deal.
Johnson would become the sixth left-hander and second-oldest pitcher to win 300 (Niekro being the oldest). He has faced the Nationals this season, getting the win by allowing eight hits and four runs with nine strikeouts in five innings on May 11 in San Francisco.
He'll be opposed by rookie Jordan Zimmermann (2-2, 6.07). He has allowed at least five earned runs in six of his past seven starts, including a loss in San Francisco on May 12 when he gave up five runs on seven hits in six innings.
I would go against the history of guys failing to get win No. 300 and take the Giants tonight; they are +105 on Bodog, which is fairly shocking to me. Zimmermann has been struggling and the Nats have lost six of seven games, although they did beat the Giants on Tuesday, 10-6. But that makes a San Francisco victory even more likely in my opinion, because how likely is it the Nats have two great offensive games in a row?
Happy betting, and enjoy baseball history for perhaps the final time.