PHOENIX -- Move over Curt Schilling. There's another big-game pitcher in town after all.
With icy calm and magnificent heat, Randy Johnson buried his reputation as a postseason flop Tuesday.
In a matchup of pitchers who together have seven Cy Young Awards and 457 victories, Johnson threw a three-hit masterpiece as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat Greg Maddux and the Atlanta Braves 2-0 in Game 1 of the National League championship series.
Johnson struck out 11 and walked one to snap his major league-record seven-game losing streak in the postseason.
''Assuming someone might say here 'Is this a monkey off your back?' This is more like a gorilla,'' Johnson said with his young son beside him in the interview room. ''King Kong.''
Chipper Jones, a longtime nemesis of Johnson, had two of Atlanta's hits to improve to 11-for-25 with six homers in his career off the Big Unit. Jones barely beat out a sharp line drive off the glove of a leaping Matt Williams at third base with two outs in the first inning.
After that, Johnson retired 20 in a row before walking Bernard Gilkey on four pitches with one out in the eighth.
''We all know what Randy is capable of on a given day, and this was one of those given days,'' Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. ''He went out there and pitched like the Big Unit we've all come to know and love.''
Johnson was one out away from pitching the eighth one-hitter in postseason history when Julio Franco and Jones singled to put runners at first and third -- Atlanta's first runner to get into scoring position all game.
The stage was set for more postseason heroics by Brian Jordan, but Johnson struck him out swinging.
''We had the right guy up. We could smell it coming again,'' Braves manager Bobby Cox said, ''but Randy threw him three really outstanding sliders. They were low, but if you're hitting, you're going to swing at them. It's just about impossible to lay off of them.''
Craig Counsell, one of the surprise heroes of Arizona's nail-biting division series triumph over St. Louis, had two hits and scored twice -- on RBI singles by Luis Gonzalez and Reggie Sanders.
Maddux was no slouch. He allowed just two runs and six hits in seven innings, but his effort was lost in the 6-foot-10 Johnson's shadow.
Johnson hadn't won in the playoffs since beating the Yankees twice in the 1995 AL division series for Seattle. He had lost his last seven decisions, including a 4-1 defeat in Game 2 of the first round against the Cardinals.
Schilling had been Arizona's big-game ace against St. Louis, winning 1-0 and 2-1 in complete games.
''He's been real complementary since he's been here. He says I raised the bar for him,'' Johnson said of Schilling. ''I told him when we were celebrating a couple of nights ago that after watching him pitch the two games he's pitched, he's raised the bar for me now in postseason.''
Usually a grimacing, shouting portrait of intensity, Johnson was a picture of gum-chewing calm except for a few bursts of emotions.
Sanders said he knew Johnson would pitch well when he walked into the clubhouse Tuesday and found the big left-hander practicing his putting and talking with teammates.
''When I see a relaxed Randy like that, I know he's on top of it,'' Sanders said. ''He's focused. There's no stress.''
Johnson had two eight-pitch innings and one seven-pitch inning, far out of character for a hurler whose pitch count normally soars above 100 long before the ninth inning.
''This kind of game is more mentally draining than it is physically draining,'' Johnson said, ''because you realize if you make one mistake that could be the ballgame. They had the go-ahead run up in that last inning. It's just nice to walk off the field and celebrate.''
Atlanta's closest calls in the first eight innings were a pair of long outs to right field by Marcus Giles. Sanders caught the first just in front of the fence to lead off the game and the second in front of the yellow home run line atop the fence to end the sixth.
Johnson yelled ''No more!'' at catcher Damian Miller. He meant that pitch would never be thrown to Giles again.
A crowd of just 37,729 -- 12,000 short of a sellout -- watched the first postseason matchup of 200-game career winners in 23 years.
Atlanta Braves pitcher Greg Maddux reacts in the fourth inning in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Bank One BallPark in Phoenix Tuesday Oct. 16, 2001.
AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it happened twice in 1978 -- Steve Carlton of Philadelphia against Don Sutton of Los Angeles in Game 3 of the NLCS, and Sutton against Catfish Hunter of the Yankees in New York's clinching Game 6 of the World Series.
The Diamondbacks scratched out a run in the first and another in the fifth against Maddux, who is 0-3 against Arizona this season and had lost his only other showdown with Johnson back in 1998.
Arizona gave Johnson a rare early lead. Counsell singled with one out in the first inning, then Gonzalez reached safely when his grounder scooted under the glove of the second baseman Giles for an error.
Sanders, 7-for-17 in the postseason, lined a single up the middle to score Counsell and make it 1-0. The scorekeeper ruled it was an earned run.
With two outs in the fifth, Counsell doubled just past the outstretched glove of a diving Andruw Jones in center.
''You can't explain how valuable he's been,'' Johnson said of Counsell. ''If my son's not going to be a left-handed pitcher, I'd want him to be a Craig Counsell. He plays the game hard and plays the game right.''
The Diamondbacks got four hits off Maddux in the first two innings, but two double plays, both started by the Atlanta pitcher, minimized the damage.
''Randy pitched great,'' Maddux said. ''That was probably the best I've ever seen him change speeds. As a complement, he was Jamie Moyer with a real good fastball.''
Notes: The winner of the NLCS Game 1 has advanced to the World Series each of the last eight seasons. ... Javy Lopez, out for nine games with a sprained left ankle, pinch-hit for Paul Bako with two outs in the eight. He struck out, then caught the bottom of the inning. ... Pitchers on the two staffs have won a combined 10 Cy Youngs. ... The Diamondbacks have yet to sell out a home game in these playoffs.
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