MIAMI – Marlins pitcher Josh Johnson knows where he can usually turn for a pick-me-up. The big right-hander has almost always found facing the Braves to his liking, and did again Monday night.
Far less accomplished pitchers have prospered against these Braves on Mondays.
Johnson allowed one hit in six otherwise perfect innings in a 2-1 series-opening win at Marlins Park, keeping the Braves winless on Mondays in 2012.
They have an almost unfathomable 0-12 record on the first day of the week, and have total 18 runs in those games. The Braves have a winning record every other day except Sunday (8-8).
Manager Fredi Gonzalez was ejected for arguing in the ninth inning when Jason Heyward grounded into a double play with two on and none out. Replays appeared to show that Heyward was safe. Chipper Jones followed with an RBI single to avert the shutout before Freddie Freeman flied out to end the game.
“We didn’t get the call on a pretty obvious call at first base that really cost us a chance to get something going and put some pressure on them,” Jones said. “But it’s not surprise to us. Shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody else.”
Until the ninth inning, the Braves couldn’t put together anything offensively. They didn’t have a baserunner until Brian McCann’s two-out single in the fifth, and the failed to capitalize on leadoff walks in the seventh and eighth against Miami’s bullpen.
Atlanta has lost three in a row since winning 10 of 12.
“We had some chances,” Gonzalez said. ” We had some opportunities. We had the right guys matching up, but we didn’t get it done.”
Atlanta couldn’t snap its Monday futility even against a Marlins team that had scored only seven runs during a five-game losing skid, and totaled 30 runs while losing nine of its past 12.
And they couldn’t take advantage after getting a break when Johnson left the game with a “skin irritation” on his middle finger after six dominant innings.
Mike Minor (5-7) pitched well for the Braves, allowing two runs in the first two innings and no more for the next five. He was charged with six hits, two runs and no walks with four strikeouts in seven innings.
But that early offense — a bloop RBI single by Carlos Lee in a three-hit first inning and Emilio Bonifacio’s leadoff homer in the second — was enough for the Marlins, who handed the Braves their third consecutive loss since a stretch of 10 wins in 12 games.
“Mike Minor did an outstanding job of keeping us in the ballgame,” Jones said. “Josh Johnson was about as unhittable as I’ve ever seen him. Luckily for us he got a blister. He was dominant JJ tonight.”
For a while Marlins fans were worried that their team had traded away Johnson when he was pulled after throwing 87 pitches. The going-nowhere Marlins traded infielders Omar Infante and pitcher Anibal Sanchez to Detroit before Monday’s game.
Shortly after Johnson left, the announcement was made. No trade. Just an irritated finger.
“Minor was terrific,” Gonzalez said. “That first one that Carlos hit, he gets him out in front on a breaking pitch and he bloops it in there…. Most of the night when you hold the opposition to two runs you’ve got a chance to come out of their with a victory, and today we just couldn’t mount any attack against [Johnson].”
The Braves slipped to 2-3 on a seven-game trip that began with a four-game split at Washington. The National League East-leading Nationals beat the Mets on Monday to move to 4-1/2 games ahead of second-place Atlanta.
Johnson is expected to make his next scheduled start. The Braves are just glad it won’t be against them.
He improved to 6-4 with a stingy 2.17 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) against the Braves. Johnson has eight or more strikeouts in nine of his past 11 starts against the Braves, including 55 strikeouts in 39 innings in his past six.
He’d been 0-2 with a 7.56 ERA in his last three starts before Monday, but it was business as usual for Johnson against the Braves.
“I’ve faced JJ quite a few times,” Jones said. “He’s always tough on us, but honestly, when Mac got the base hit I went ‘whew.’ Because he had no-hit stuff. If not perfect-game stuff.”
Braves hitters had to be relieved to see him leave. But they didn’t take advantage of the situation until the ninth.
After Martin Prado’s leadoff walk in the seventh against former Marlins lefty Michael Dunn, the Braves got three consecutive flyouts. And after McCann’s leadoff walk in the eighth, the Braves got three consecutive strikeouts from slumping Dan Uggla and pinch-hitters Tyler Pastornicky and David Ross.