Marlins-Dodgers Preview

Emerging as one of the best pitchers in baseball, Josh Johnson

will make his final start before the All-Star Game at Dodger

Stadium.

His next start could be just down the freeway.

Johnson, a possible starter for the NL in next week’s All-Star

Game in Anaheim, looks to continue his dominance Wednesday night

when the Florida Marlins conclude a three-game set against the Los

Angeles Dodgers.

While Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez is the favorite to start for the

NL in Tuesday’s Midsummer Classic, Johnson is also a strong

candidate to get the nod.

Johnson (8-3, 1.82 ERA) leads the majors in ERA, is seventh in

the league in strikeouts (115) and has made 15 consecutive quality

starts, the best such stretch in baseball. For the most part,

though, he’s been significantly better than the simple parameters

required for a quality start.

The Florida ace has yielded one run or less in nine of his last

10 starts. The only start he allowed more, he gave up two runs. In

Atlanta on Friday, Johnson gave up one run, six hits and no walks

with eight strikeouts in six innings of a 4-3, 11-inning loss.

“He deserved to win, but we have to score some runs,” Marlins

manager Edwin Rodriguez said.

Johnson, named NL pitcher of the month Tuesday, probably could

have a few more victories if Florida (39-44) scored with more

consistency. The Marlins are 3-4 in Johnson’s last seven starts,

supporting the two-time All-Star with four total runs in the

defeats.

Johnson hasn’t faced Los Angeles since April 10, his last outing

before his quality start streak began. The right-hander allowed

three runs and five hits while striking out seven in five innings

of a 7-6 victory, but didn’t get a decision. He is 2-0 with a 5.00

ERA in three career starts at Dodger Stadium.

Los Angeles (46-37) defeated the Marlins 7-3 on Tuesday after

losing Monday’s opener 6-5. The Dodgers have won six of eight to

pull within three games of NL West-leading San Diego.

Matt Kemp and Rafael Furcal again led Los Angeles on Tuesday.

Kemp, benched last week, homered for the fourth time in six games,

while Furcal had two hits and drove in three.

Furcal has scored a run in 12 consecutive games, the longest

streak by a Dodgers player since a 12-game stretch by Gil Hodges in

June 1953. He is batting .512 with 13 RBIs and 15 runs during a

10-game hitting streak.

“He looks very comfortable. It just gives a lift to everybody

else,” manager Joe Torre said. “When he gets on base, it’s a

little tougher to go through the rest of the lineup – especially

the middle of the lineup. We just did a lot of good things tonight.

The home runs certainly were huge for us, and we got off on the

right foot.”

Furcal is 4 for 13 lifetime against Johnson, while Kemp is 2 for

9.

Los Angeles counters with Hiroki Kuroda (7-6, 3.78), who tries

to bounce back from one of his worst starts.

Kuroda was tagged for six runs and eight hits in 1 2-3 innings –

his shortest outing as a starter – in Friday’s 12-5 loss in

Arizona. The right-hander had given up six runs over 24 1-3 innings

in his previous four starts.

Kuroda didn’t have any problems facing the Marlins in his season

debut April 9, allowing one run and five hits while striking out

seven in eight innings of a 7-3 victory. He is 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA

in four career starts versus Florida.