So it was only understandable Wednesday that Hundley, the Padres' 24-year-old rookie catcher, felt somewhat awestruck when he faced Johnson, the Diamondbacks' 44-year-old left-hander, at PETCO Park.
"I grew up watching him," Hundley said of Johnson. "Back when he was in his heyday -- heck, he was in his heyday today -- everyone loved him. He is a surefire Hall of Famer."
Oddly enough, Johnson remained stuck on career victory No. 294 because of Hundley, who socked a two-run home run that went a long way in helping San Diego sweep Arizona, as it won the series finale, 5-4.
The means by which the Padres arrived at this victory were every bit as improbable as their sweep over the first-place Diamondbacks (68-65), who sent Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Johnson to the mound in this series yet still came away empty-handed.
Johnson mowed through the Padres through the first six innings, allowing two hits with eight strikeouts. Dominant and efficient, Johnson faced three batters in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings by throwing just 84 pitches.
But after getting Chase Headley on a grounder to begin the seventh inning, Johnson allowed a triple to Jody Gerut and an RBI single to Edgar Gonzalez on a ball that did not leave the infield, as shortstop Stephen Drew smothered it with a diving stop.
That brought up Hundley, who was hitless in his first two at-bats against Johnson. But when Johnson fell behind in the count 2-0, Hundley figured he would get something he could hit. He was right, as he turned on a slider and drove it over the fence in left field for his third career home run -- and clearly his most memorable, no offense to Pittsburgh's Franquelis Osoria (career home run No. 1) or Arizona's Micah Owings (No. 2).
Johnson finished the inning, before exiting having allowed three runs on five hits with nine strikeouts.
The Padres (51-82) weren't finished, though. After chasing Johnson, they scored twice off reliever Chad Qualls (2-8) in the eighth inning by manufacturing runs, using three hits, a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base to chase home the tying and go-ahead runs.
Pinch-hitter Brian Giles started the inning with a single off Qualls and moved to second on Luis Rodriguez's sacrifice bunt. One out later, Headley drove an RBI single into right field to tie the score. Headley, who will be the first to tell you he's not fleet of foot, then stole second base to get into scoring position.
Headley, who had just six career stolen bases in four Minor League seasons, got his second of the year.
"In that situation, there's not a whole lot to lose. If I get thrown out, it's still a tie game," Headley said. "But thankfully Jody [Gerut] came through with another huge hit."
Gerut, who beat the D-backs on Monday with a walk-off two-run home run in the ninth inning, followed with a single that scored Headley with what turned out to be the winning run.
"Today was a game where it showed up," Padres manager Bud Black said of the ability to manufacture runs, which is something San Diego hasn't done well or often this season. "When it shows up, you can come back and win some games."
Padres starting pitcher Cha Seung Baek held the Diamondbacks to four hits in five scoreless innings and accounted well for himself in what amounted to a continuing tryout for a rotation spot in 2009.
But Baek ran into trouble in the sixth inning, allowing a run before leaving with one runner on. Reliever Clay Hensley allowed that runner to score, as well as two more of his own.
But Justin Hampson tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings and Mike Adams (2-3) followed with a scoreless eighth to get the victory. Trevor Hoffman earned his 27th save by striking out the side in the ninth inning.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less