07/08/10 2:56 AM ET
Quiet Dodgers offer Kuroda no help
Rubber match goes Marlins' way after four-run second inning
By Evan Drellich / MLB.com
After handing Jimenez his only loss this season in May, the Dodgers fell to Jimenez's only statistical peer Wednesday night in a 4-0 Marlins win at Dodger Stadium. Johnson, an All-Star like Jimenez, went eight innings, allowed six hits, one walk and struck out eight in the rubber match of the three-game set.
The National League's starter for Tuesday night's All-Star Game in Anaheim has yet to be announced.
"You don't count him," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said when told his team had been shut out nine times this season. "You can't count him. He's just one of the premier pitchers in the league as far as I'm concerned."
The Dodgers missed a chance to gain a game on the National League West-leading Padres in the standings, and Jimenez's Rockies, who had more late-inning drama at home in an 8-7 win over the Cardinals, tied the Dodgers for second in the division. Both teams are three games out as the Dodgers start a four-game series with the Cubs at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.
Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda, who fell to 7-7, allowed the same number of hits as Johnson, six, but that reflected how well he recovered after the Marlins did all their scoring in the second. Rookie outfielder Mike Stanton, a Southern California native, hit a three-run homer to cap the frame, marking the second night in a row he went deep.
"That's part of baseball, you have one bad inning and one bad inning is one too many against a pitcher like [Johnson]," Kuroda said. "It was big that I was able to recover like that, but when you lose a game it's hard to be satisfied with anything that you do afterwards."
Even if Kuroda had limited the Marlins to say, two runs in the second, he likely would've been outdone. The all-world Johnson, 9-3, leads the Majors with a 1.70 ERA. His ERA in 11 starts since May 13 is 0.80.
"It was really good," Johnson said. "I started out exactly how I wanted to locating my fastball both sides of the plate."
In four of the five innings the Dodgers had hits off of Johnson, they had runners in scoring position. But they never had their leadoff man reach, and Torre's plan to work up Johnson's pitch count -- his Pedro Martinez plan, because of how well it worked against the former Red Sox ace -- didn't work. Johnson finished with 117 pitches, 75 for strikes, and the game was a breezy 2 hours, 31 minutes.
"He's good, he got the four runs and that's the type of pitcher that knows what to do with the lead," Torre said. "He knows how to pitch. His pitch count, you kept looking up there and it really didn't go anywhere. Really that's our goal, to try work his pitch count up where you can get him out of the game."
Johnson retired the first 11 batters he faced until Andre Ethier singled to right field on a line. James Loney, the only Dodger to finish with two hits, hit the first pitch he saw for a single into center, and the Dodgers had some momentum.
"He's got good stuff," Loney said. "I'm trying to square up the ball, he's got some good movement on some of his pitches. It's not like it's the type of guy you see every day ... I don't mind facing anybody. Some of the guys with the worst ERAs can get you out too. If you go up there with the mentality that this guy's getting everybody out, you might be getting yourself out."
Casey Blake, whose 0-for-4 night culminated in a strikeout looking that he disagreed with in the ninth inning, went down swinging on a 1-2, 96 mph Johnson fastball to end the inning.
Ethier and Loney tried it again in the sixth. Ethier walked on four straight with two out and Loney again singled, this time to right. Blake popped out foul to third for the inning's last out.
Russell Martin hit a deep liner to left-center that looked like it had a chance to leave the yard with none on and one out in the seventh. It went for an off-the-wall double and the Dodgers' third runner in scoring position of the game, but two fly outs stranded Martin.
"I thought both balls he hit, they were daytime home runs," Torre said, referencing Martin's flyout to right in the third as well. "Again, we just didn't put enough pressure on them tonight."
The eighth inning saw one last rally against Johnson, with Matt Kemp's liner to left with one out. Kemp, who has four steals in the last three games, stole second with Loney at the plate. But Loney couldn't find hit No. 3, grounding out to first, and the Dodgers went down in order against Jose Veras in the ninth.
Rafael Furcal, batting .512 over the 10-game hit streak he started the night with, was 0-for-4.
"He's been throwing pretty good all year," Furcal. "You cannot wait for any pitch. He mixes up his pitches every at-bat. It's been difficult for everybody the way he's been pitching this year."
As for which pitcher the Dodgers would rather face, Jimenez, whom they beat, 1-0, on May 9, or Johnson:
"I have no idea," Ethier said. "That's up to you to decide, that's up to Charlie [Manuel] to decide. You're not going to get answer out of me."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.