Marlins 6, Pirates 0

Only once did Josh Johnson peek at the scoreboard to check his

pitch count, which was rising too quickly for him to go nine

innings.

The first career shutout will have to wait, but the zeros keep

coming.

Johnson gave up no runs for the second game in a row, allowing

just two hits in seven innings to help Florida beat the Pittsburgh

Pirates 6-0 Tuesday night.

Johnson (3-0) lowered his ERA to 1.00. He has allowed four hits

or less in each of his four starts, and batters are hitting .112

against him.

Even so, he said, he can do better.

”Why not?” the right-hander said. ”There’s always room to

improve.”

That’s true: Johnson has never thrown a shutout in 108 career

starts. He was pulled by manager Edwin Rodriguez after throwing 98

pitches, 64 for strikes, and was fine with the decision.

”We were in agreement up 6-0,” Johnson said.

Johnson has pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings over his

past three starts. After leading the NL in ERA last year, he added

a curveball to his repertoire, making his 96-mph fastball even more

effective.

Johnson said he threw seven or eight curves against the

Pirates.

”He’s getting more confident with that pitch,” Rodriguez said.

”It’s going to take him to the next level.”

Mike Dunn and Brian Sanches each worked one perfect inning to

complete the two-hitter against a team that came into the game with

the highest road batting average in the NL. Pittsburgh struck out

12 times.

Garrett Jones singled off the right-field wall to start the

fifth inning for the Pirates’ first hit, and pinch-hitter John

Bowker singled in the sixth. Both runners were erased on double

plays, and the Marlins faced only one batter more than the

minimum.

Johnson struck out nine and walked one.

”If you’re going to start a franchise and pick a pitcher,

you’re not going to go wrong picking him,” Pirates manager Clint

Hurdle said.

Johnson helped himself with a single to score the first two runs

and laid down a sacrifice.

He contributed on defense, too, hustling to cover first and

complete a nifty 3-6-1 double play. First baseman Gaby Sanchez

fielded the ball and then dove out of the way so Johnson could

catch the return throw.

”I was like, `I got it,’ and just hoping he heard me,” Johnson

said with a laugh. ”If he had stood up a second longer I might not

have seen the ball, because they threw it right over the top of his

head.”

Sanchez added two RBIs, and Emilio Bonifacio had three hits.

Dunn and Sanches reduced a bullpen ERA that is the lowest in the

majors at 1.81.

On a clear, 80-degree night, few witnessed the Marlins’ first

shutout this year. The announced crowd for the start of Florida’s

nine-game homestand was 11,118, and the actual attendance was

perhaps 5,000.

Paul Maholm (0-3) allowed six runs and lasted only 3 2-3

innings, his shortest outing in four starts.

”It stinks,” Maholm said. ”I didn’t give the team a chance to

win. Facing Johnson, you’ve got to be good, and I wasn’t.”

Wildness hurt Maholm, who hit Mike Stanton with a pitch with two

out in the second. After John Buck reached on an infield single,

Bonifacio’s single loaded the bases.

Johnson – who batted .085 last year – then lined a pitch over

the second baseman, and two runs scored.

Stanton, dropped to sixth in the order because of an

early-season slump, doubled to start the fourth and scored on

Buck’s double. Maholm came out of the game after walking Hanley

Ramirez with the bases loaded to make it 4-0. Michael Crotta took

the mound, and Sanchez blooped his first pitch for a two-run

single.

NOTES: Marlins LF Logan Morrison left the game in the fifth

inning with a strained arch in his left foot. He wore a boot

afterward but said he hopes to be back in the lineup within a

couple of days. … Slumping Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez, who was

given the night off Monday, was back in the lineup and went 0 for 3

with two strikeouts. … The Marlins, who went 34-15 against

lefties last year, improved to 2-4 against them this year.