Braves' Johnson atones for early mistake vs. Red Sox
MAY 27, 2014 11:31p ET
ATLANTA -- The ball hit off the edge of the grass in front of third and a charging Chris Johnson barehanded it, took two steps and fired to Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman to get the Red Sox's David Ross.
"I had to kind of do a do-or-die play right there to get rid of it," Johnson said. "I don't do those plays a lot. But it was pretty cool."
It was the first atonement.
An inning later, Johnson delivered his second. He sent a sacrifice fly to right center field to make up for an error that led to the first Boston run in Tuesday's 6-3 loss.
The Braves third baseman had mishandled Xander Bogaerts' ground ball for an error, missing a chance to start a double play with Brock Holt headed to second. A batter later, Johnson's mistake led to a run via Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly.
"I hate making errors behind guys," Johnson said. "I'm glad up in a spot when I needed to hit that sac fly and get that guy in."
Johnson went 0 for 3 on the night with a strikeout, but he did have two RBI, with his second coming in the fifth inning as he flied into a force out, plating Freeman, who led off with a triple.
May has seen Johnson raise his average from .231 to .263 and push his batting BABIP from a pedestrian .303 in the season's first month to .386 in the second, putting him more in line with last season, when he finished second in the National League in batting behind a .394 BABIP.
But the narrative for the past week has been a different one for Johnson, it's been one surrounding his self-described "demons."
He was benched in the second inning Friday against the Rockies after he exploded in the tunnel near the Braves dugout, shattering a bat with pieces hitting manager Fredi Gonzalez and teammate Gerald Laird, who had their backs to Johnson as they stood on the dugout steps.
"I play with a lot of passion," Johnson said afterward. "Every single pitch and every single at-bat, I hold in high regard. When things don't go well, that is kind of my downfall. That is one of the biggest parts of my game I need to work on. One of the worst things I could ever do is hurt a teammate or something like that."
It was not the first such instance for Johnson, who last season got into a confrontation with first base coach Terry Pendleton after Johnson threw his batting helmet in anger, inadvertently hitting Pendleton when it bounced. He had already been benched for two games this year when he threw a tantrum in the dugout after two four-strikeout games in the span of three games.
There would be no further missed playing time for Johnson after the latest incident, and in the three games since Friday, he's gone 4 for 12 with a home run and four RBI.
"This has to be it for me," Johnson said. "I think it will get a point where people won't think I'm truly sorry for doing it. It just looks selfish."
Which made what Johnson did Tuesday all the more meaningful, they're not the parts of his game he's known for.
With minus-49 defensive runs saved and a minus-40.3 ultimate zone rating in 4,177 1/3 career innings at third base, Johnson's D is well below average. His DRS (minus-2) and UZR (0.9) this year put him among the worst everyday third basemen in the majors.
To his credit, he has a 4.0 UZR/150 this season, the best of his career, but the spectacular -- a la the Ross throw out -- is rarely part of the equation with Johnson.
Neither are sacrifice flies.
Johnson had one heading into the series opener vs. the Red Sox and three in 167 chances in his two seasons in a Braves uniform, but came through for his first since April 4 and on the night ran his RBI total to 13. Twenty-four third basemen have had more than Johnson since the start of 2013.
It was the little things on a night that began in frustration, one where Johnson contributed despite going hitless.
"I don't even worry about when something doesn't go Chris Johnson's way," Gonzalez said. "He's going to be fine."