Johnson’s hot start in 2000 leads to third Cy Young Award

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

Randy Johnson won his first National League Cy Young Award in 1999, but started that season with just two wins in his first six outings.

The Diamondbacks lefty made sure that 2000 would be different.

On April 30, 2000, Johnson improved to 6-0 on the season by defeating Chicago Cubs 6-0 at Wrigley Field. Johnson allowed just five hits over seven innings, striking out 11 to bring his season total to 64 before the calendar turned to May.

Johnson became just the third pitcher in history – and the first non-Athletics pitcher – to win six games in April, joining Oakland’s Vida Blue (1971) and Dave Stewart (1988).

“If he keeps doing this, we’re going to be looking for a cape in his locker,” Diamondbacks pitching coach Mark Connor told the Arizona Republic. “He’s severely locked in right now.”

Blue reached six wins in April en route to the AL Cy Young and Most Valuable Player Award in 1971, but he lost his first decision of the year and ended the month with a 6-1 mark to go with a 1.20 earned-run average. Stewart was 6-0 with a 2.98 ERA in a season where he went 21-12 and finished fourth in the AL’s Cy Young Award voting.

Johnson’s torrid April seemed not to impress the 36-year-old fireballer despite the fact that he was entering rare territory for a pitcher his age.

“I don’t get all wrapped up in it,” Johnson told the Arizona Republic. “This is the benefit of it when everyone plays well, and I pitch well in situations to win a game.”

Johnson finished the season with a 19-7 record, a 2.64 ERA and an NL-best 347 strikeouts, eight complete games and three shutouts. He earned his third Cy Young Award (the first coming with the Mariners in 1995) – the second of four in a row from 1999-2002.

In 2002, Johnson would duplicate his six-win April, becoming the only pitcher to reach that mark twice.

From his age-30 season on, Johnson posted 235 of his 303 career wins, 3,749 strikeouts (only four pitchers, including Johnson, have more strikeouts for their entire career) and all five of his Cy Young Award-winning seasons.

“If there’s a better pitcher out there,” said Cubs first baseman Mark Grace, who would join Johnson on the Diamondbacks starting in 2001, “I’d like to see him.”

Johnson was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series