Cards look forward to facing Big Unit

Cards look forward to facing Big Unit

ST. LOUIS -- Brendan Ryan remembers the time he thought he was about to face Randy Johnson.

The Cardinals infielder was up with the club in 2007 and was in the lineup against the future Hall of Famer. But Johnson, then with Arizona, was scratched with back spasms and Ryan was eventually benched as well when the D-backs countered with a right-hander.

But Ryan has another shot to face the 6-foot-10 lefty when Johnson takes the Busch Stadium mound on Tuesday night against the Cardinals, and he hopes he is in the lineup.

"It's Randy Johnson," Ryan said. "I mean, it's Randy Johnson. You want to face those guys. It's part of the experience of being a big leaguer. It's pretty cool facing guys like him and [Tom] Glavine and [John] Smoltz and some of those guys that are iconic almost. It will be cool.

"It's crazy, kind of hard to believe even. But still, I've got a job to do, so I've got to put that stuff aside, which is hard at times."

Johnson didn't start against the Cardinals during their series in San Francisco earlier in the season and with his career nearing an end, Ryan and the Cardinals don't know how many more chances they will get to face one of the best pitchers in baseball history.

"A lot of us are young enough to the point where we were still in high school watching him pitch and dominate," said outfielder Ryan Ludwick. "I remember a lot of his strikeout performances and obviously his run in the World Series with the Diamondbacks. That's fresh in my mind because I lived in Vegas at the time. I think anytime you face a guy who is going to be a Hall of Famer, it's always fun."

The list of accolades for Johnson is long. Among them: five Cy Young Awards and six 300-strikeout seasons. He is 7-5 with a 4.68 ERA in 15 starts and recently picked up win No. 300 in his career.

"He still knows how to pitch, and he's still seven feet tall or whatever he is," Ryan said. "He's still got amazing stuff. Hopefully he doesn't have his slider working and hopefully he leaves the fastball up and hopefully we put up a whole bunch of runs early. But it's always going to be a battle against him."

Johnson's velocity has dropped since his dominating years of the late 1990s, but his effectiveness hasn't. So while Ryan, Ludwick and the rest of the Cardinals gawk over a chance to face the legendary lefty, they know that facing him won't be a walk in the park.

"He's still got a good slider, and he's still got leverage," Ludwick said. "He's got height, so when he drives down to the plate, the ball gets on you.

"He's just been one of those guys that when you think of him, he's kind of the first lefty of his kind of all-time, with that type of height and you always think about the moment when he threw Kruk the slider in the All-Star Game when he bailed out of the box. He's just been a dominant pitcher over his career. It will be a challenge."

Pitching matchup
STL: RHP Chris Carpenter (5-2, 1.78 ERA)
One rocky inning on Thursday sent Carpenter's ERA soaring -- all the way to 1.78. With only one more start before All-Stars are chosen, the loss may have cost him a chance to pitch in the Midsummer Classic, but few in the National League have been better this year. Carpenter is throwing everything he's got and throwing it all for quality strikes -- fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup. He's a handful, though once again it appears that he'll be facing off against a fellow former Cy Young Award winner -- for the fourth time this year.

SF: LHP Randy Johnson (7-5, 4.68 ERA)
Johnson pitched seven strong innings for the fourth time this season on Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics. Johnson allowed one run on six hits and struck out six. He's now won three starts in a row and five of his last six. In two games against the St. Louis Cardinals last season, the Big Unit went 0-1 with an ERA of 9.31.

Tidbits
Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin has 18 saves, four of which have been more than one inning. The only other pitcher who has more saves of one-plus innings is the Giants' Brian Wilson, who has five. ... Carpenter's 1.78 ERA is lowest among all MLB pitchers who have at least 10 starts. He is 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA in three home starts.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FS-M HD

On radio
• KTRS 550

Up next
• Wednesday: Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 8-5, 3.51) vs. Giants (Matt Cain, 9-2, 2.57), 7:15 p.m. CT
• Thursday: Cardinals (Todd Wellemeyer, 6-7, 5.68) vs. Giants (Barry Zito, 4-7, 4.55), 6:15 p.m. CT
• Friday: Cardinals (TBD) at Reds (Homer Bailey, 1-0, 8.68), 6:10 p.m. CT

B.J. Rains is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.