Josh Johnson‘s bat was just as potent as his pitching.
Johnson hit a three-run homer in another solid start, lifting the Florida Marlins to a 6-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
Johnson’s shot with two outs in the fourth off Kenshin Kawakami (5-8) went well over the center-field wall for only the second home run of his career. The homer earned him a curtain call from fans and gave the Marlins their seventh win in the last eight games.
“I thought it was gone when I hit it, but I kept running just in case,” Johnson said. “It’s fun. It’s fun to be a part of right now.”
Johnson (10-2) allowed eight hits in six innings before the bullpen kept the Braves scoreless the rest of the way. Leo Nunez gave up a triple in the ninth to Kelly Johnson before striking out Nate McLouth for his eighth save in 11 chances.
Casey Kotchman‘s home run leading off the fifth, and Garret Anderson‘s two-run homer in the sixth were all the Braves could squeeze out of Florida’s ace.
With Johnson having a stellar season, Marlins catcher John Baker said his teammate should be mentioned as one of the top NL Cy Young Award candidates.
“I look around baseball and I say, ‘If I was going to take one pitcher for my team to start the game that we had to win, right now I’d pick Josh Johnson,”‘ Baker said.
Atlanta has done little to slow Florida, and not even another ejection from manager Bobby Cox to extend his major-league record to 147 could spark a rally against the streaky Marlins.
Afterward, Cox said he didn’t want to talk about umpires. Johnson’s performance gave him enough to be upset about.
“He crushed that ball,” Cox said. “The pitcher hits a three-run homer, he puts us in a hole real quick.”
After getting swept by the division-leading Philadelphia Phillies in a four-game series less than two weeks ago, the Marlins‘ playoff hopes looked grim. A 5-1 West Coast trip against the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers and two straight over the Braves have put Florida in the thick of the wild-card chase with a cluster of teams.
“That’s what I’m most proud of this team – the way we’ve come back from that (Phillies series),” Johnson said.
Florida’s bats are finally matching its starting pitching.
Ramirez hit an RBI triple in the third that scored Emilio Bonifacio to put the Marlins ahead 1-0. The speedy Bonifacio hustled to score from first, losing his helmet around second as Ramirez’s hit trickled to the right-center field wall.
Ramirez, the NL-batting leader, added another highlight with his 16th homer of the season in the fifth. Dan Uggla hit his 18th home run of the year later in the inning to put the Marlins ahead 6-1, chasing Kawakami and giving Johnson all the cushion he needed.
Atlanta didn’t go out without a few of those famous fits.
Cox was tossed in the eighth inning for arguing ball and strikes. Plate umpire Bill Hohn motioned to Atlanta’s dugout trying to quiet Cox, who then came on the field to argue while Anderson was at the plate.
Hohn and Cox traded verbal barbs for about a minute before the Braves manager was ejected, throwing his hands in the air and marching to the clubhouse. His players were just as bothered with the latest loss.
“We have to win (Thursday),” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “That’s the only positive you can take out of tonight.”
NOTES: Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom (elbow) pitched one hitless inning Wednesday for Double-A Jacksonville. He will pitch there again Thursday and may rejoin the Marlins this weekend, manager Fredi Gonzalez said. … Gonzalez returned from a one-game suspension that was handed out after a player from each team was hit by a pitch in the Marlins-Dodgers game Sunday.