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Mantei Blows Big Unit's Gem

No matter how well Randy Johnson pitches, the Arizona Diamondbacks find a way to lose.

Johnson shut out Texas for eight innings Thursday night only to see closer Matt Mantei walk the bases loaded and give up a three-run double to Mark McLemore with two outs in the ninth, giving the Rangers a 3-2 victory.

"I turned an easy save situation into a loss," said Mantei, who was a strike away from ending the game on three of the last four hitters. "Randy pitched his butt off and I couldn't finish it."

Johnson allowed six hits over eight innings, but -- for the fifth straight start -- had nothing to show for it.

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  • He lost his last four games as Arizona was shut out each time. It was only the 10th time since 1900 that a pitcher lost four straight games while his team went scoreless.

    This loss had to be the most disappointing because Johnson pitched with the lead all night following a first-inning RBI single by Matt Williams. Jay Bell added a solo homer in the eighth, his 25th.

    "It was a tough loss for the team," said Johnson, who has allowed five earned runs over his last 40 innings, dropping his ERA to 2.80 from 3.36. "I don't use the word frustrate."

    Mantei (1-3) was acquired last week from Florida to avoid disasters like this, not cause them.

    Texas' Lee Stevens celebrates after scoring the winning run. <b>
    Texas' Lee Stevens celebrates after scoring the winning run. (AP)

    He got the first two outs on a strikeout and a comebacker, then tied a major-league record by walking three pinch-hitters. It was the eighth time three pinch-hitters had walked in an inning, but only the second time they've gone in a row.

    Mantei, who saved his Arizona debut on Sunday, had a 2-2 count on McLemore when he drove the ball into the right-center field gap.

    Rusty Greer and pinch-runner Scarborough Green scored easily as right fielder Tony Womack knocked the ball down. Lee Stevens slid home well before the throw from center fielder Steve Finley reached the plate.

    McLemore, who had slid into second base, jumped up and joined his teammates in a wild celebration.

    "This was as exciting of a win as we've had all season," Texas manager Johnny Oates said. "We beat a good pitcher, even though he was in the dugout when the game ended."

    Mike Venafro (3-1), pitched a scoreless ninth for the victory.

    Johnson may not have had his best stuff of the season, but it was good enough to win. Seven of the eight runners against him reached with two outs, the only exception being a McLemore single to lead off the eighth.

    McLemore was stranded there as Roberto Kelly flew out and Johnson struck out Ivan Rodriguez and Juan Gonzalez. The Rangers also wasted a bases-loaded chance in the fourth when Johnson struck out Jon Shave.

    Johnson struck out eight, ending his streak of four straight games with at least 11 strikeouts. He was pulled after throwing 120 pitches.

    Arizona manager Buck Showalter said he didn't think twice about going to Mantei.

    "The tough decision was leaving Randy out there in the eighth," Showalter said.

    The Diamondbacks ended their 34-inning scoring drought with their ace on the mound when Williams singled home Tony Womack with two out in the first. It was the 1,500th hit of Williams' career.

    Arizona's bats didn't exactly erupt off Texas starter Rick Helling. The Diamondbacks -- who were no-hit, one-hit, two-hit and three-hit in Johnson's last four starts -- got just five hits this time.

    Helling, who hasn't won since June 16, allowed two runs in eight innings. It was his longest outing since May 21, 10 starts ago.


    • When umpires took the field before the game, they were noticeably booed by fans at The Ballpark at Arlington.
    • The Diamondbacks activated reliever Darren Holmes from the disabled list and sent down reliever Erik Sabel to Triple-A Tucson.
    • McLemore, starting in left field for the second time this year, made a nice leaping catch on the warning track of a David Dellucci drive in the fifth.
    • The fan who caught Williams' 1,500th hit after it was fouled into the stands swapped it for a ball autographed by Williams.
    • The Rangers began several new "fan-friendly" stunts, including T-shirt shooters and an animated character on the scoreboard. They didn't get a chance to show off their post-homer fireworks display.

      ©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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