The Closer: Randy Johnson Career Death Watch, Day 31

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Notes from a day in baseball:

1. We've Got A Bad Feeling About This. Randy Johnson won his third straight decision on Thursday, as the Yankees topped the Devil Rays 10-5 in Tampa Bay. So then why do Yankees fans have this feeling of dread whenever Big Unit takes the mound? Perhaps because they know deep down, as you do, that he's not pitching well. Big Crazy allowed five runs and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings, becoming the third pitcher in major league history with 4,400 strikeouts. But of his five wins this season, of all of them it could be said, "well, he was good enough." What happens in August, during that pivitol series with the Red Sox, when Johnny Damon decides not to hit a grand slam, as he did Thursday? We just feel wary about the whole Randy Johnson experience right now. Something dramatic is going to happen before June; either he rebounds in glorious fashion, or his left arm flies off and hits a press box window during his follow through.

2. If You're Banned In Cuba, You Have To Be Good. Meet Jose Contreras, cyborg from the future. He's now won 13 straight decisions if you're counting; the latest 4-1 over the Mariners (one run, four hits, three walks, four Ks in 7 1/3 innings). Contreras is the A.L.'s first five-game winner, and has a 1.41 ERA. He's 16-2 since last season's All-Star break. The White Sox, by the way, are the first in the majors to 20 wins (helped by Jim Thome's home run). Contreras will always live in our heart because of two great things: 1. His 2003 signing inspired Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino to dub the New York Yankees "the Evil Empire," and 2. Fidel Castro has banned all White Sox games from Cuban TV when Contreras, who is from Cuba, is pitching.


3. Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood. Honesty and accountability in Washington? How odd. Following his Nationals' 11-3 loss to Florida on Thursday (their 10th loss in the past 12 games), manager Frank Robinson sort of threw a fit. "I'm embarrassed for this team, because the fans are coming out here and being very supportive, and we're not giving them what they deserve," Robinson said after the game. "Not even close. And I'm surprised they're not throwing things at us. We deserve whatever they might do or say. I'm amazed they're still coming out here. I wouldn't pay to see us." Wow, good news for the new owners, who just broke ground a few hours earlier $611 million stadium project.

4. We Just Like Saying "Papelbon". Besides having a name like a Richard Bach novel, Jonathan Papelbon also has a flair for drama. The Red Sox reliever loves to scare you in disturbing ways before finally getting the job done in the end. In Boston's 7-4 win over Toronto, Papelbon came on with two outs in the ninth, and promptly caught his spike on the pitching rubber on his first pitch, stopping the game as he was checked by the trainer. But the rookie closer stayed in and got a groundout, earning his 11th save in 11 chances.


5. OK, Fine. We're now mentioning the Cardinals' four-game losing streak, which is paired smoothly with a nagging back injury for Albert Pujols. We didn't keep bugging you to talk about your dead dog, did we? Sigh. It's May ... it's May ... just keep saying it ... it's May ...