Johnson continues stellar work in win over Dodgers

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Josh Johnson has been one of baseball’s most dominant pitchers through the first half of the season. And in his final start before his second trip to the All-Star game, the Florida Marlins’ ace made one last bid to ace out Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez for the starting nod on the NL team.

Johnson scattered six hits over eight innings and lowered his major league-leading ERA to 1.70 to help the Marlins beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0 on Wednesday night. But he will have to wait until Monday to find out if NL manager Charlie Manuel will give him the ball on Tuesday night in Anaheim.

“There was no statement about that,” Johnson said. “We needed a win and we needed to win this series. That was all I was out there to do. Nothing for the All-Star game. It’s all about the team right now.”

Johnson (9-3) threw 117 pitches and came within three outs of his first shutout in 94 big league starts, striking out eight and walking one. Jose Veras finished up with a perfect ninth.

Johnson, who signed a four-year, $39 million contract extension in January, has yielded fewer than three earned runs in 15 of his last 16 starts and has a 34-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his last four outings. Last year at the All-Star break, he was 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA.

“It’s one of those things that I put on myself — to go out there every time and give my team a chance to win no matter who I’m pitching against or what team I’m facing,” Johnson said.

“I just had to build off last year. That was the main thing. Working on the stuff I’ve been working on this year has definitely taken me up a little bit and kind of pushed me along and taken me deeper into games. That’s the key for me. Whenever you can give your bullpen a rest, I feel like I’ve done my job.”

Rookie Mike Stanton completed a successful homecoming with a three-run homer. The 20-year-old right fielder, who played his high school ball at Notre Dame High in nearby Sherman Oaks — and came within one game of getting a chance to play at Dodger Stadium for the city championship — went 4 for 12 with two homers and six RBIs in his first series at Chavez Ravine.

“That’s what you dream about: Hitting home runs in your favorite MLB team’s park. It’s just overwhelming, to be able to hit two nights in a row here,” Stanton said. “It would have been great even if I didn’t have good games. I had fun all three nights, and playing well was just icing on the cake. Just to see all my friends and family in the stands was enough for me. But I’m happy things worked out a little better. It was a great time.”

Hiroki Kuroda (7-7) gave up four runs and six hits over seven innings and struck out four without walking anyone. The Marlins did all of their scoring in the second, as Cody Ross hit an RBI single and Stanton drove a 3-1 pitch into the left field pavilion with two outs for his fourth homer to give Johnson all the run support he would need.

“It’s not hard to help him out. All he needs usually is one or two runs,” Stanton said. “I didn’t really care if it went out. I knew it was enough for a sac fly. Luckily, it hung up a little longer for it to go out. But I was just trying to put the ball in play, really.”

Johnson retired his first two batters in each of the first six innings. The Dodgers put runners at the corners in the fourth on singles by Andre Ethier and James Loney before Casey Blake struck out. They got two more on base in the sixth, but Blake fouled out to third baseman Jorge Cantu — who nearly collided with on-deck hitter Garret Anderson.

“Johnson had real good stuff. He commands the strike zone and as you saw, he can throw all three his pitches for strikes when he wants to,” said Ethier, whose .332 average is just four points behind league-leader Martin Prado of Atlanta. “That’s the sign of a good pitcher, and it makes for a long day.”

NOTES: Dodgers C Russell Martin had a very special visitor before the game. It was 3-year-old Janelle Briseno, who had undergone surgery for a fractured skull after being struck by a line drive off Martin’s bat during batting practice on June 7. He presented her with a youth-sized Dodgers jersey with her name and age on the back. Janelle, whose favorite Dodger is Manny Ramirez, watched the game with her parents from the “Mannywood” section in the left field corner. During her three-day stay in the hospital, several members of the organization brought her some stuffed animals and presented game tickets to the medical staff who cared for her. … Stanton attended numerous games at Dodger Stadium while growing up. He usually sat in the right field pavilion behind his favorite player, Raul Mondesi. … Johnson hasn’t allowed a home run in six career starts against Los Angeles, spanning 34 innings, and is 3-0 with a 3.46 ERA in four starts at Dodger Stadium.

Updated July 7, 2010