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Marlins' Johnson flirts with no-no, stymies Braves

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ATLANTA -- Josh Johnson was almost unhittable. Everyone agrees he can be even better.

Johnson took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning before rookie Freddie Freeman doubled with one out, and the Florida Marlins beat the Atlanta Braves 5-1 on Wednesday night.

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Johnson (2-0), who held the New York Mets hitless for six innings on opening day, dominated the Braves for 7 1/3 innings, striking out nine and walking three.

"Actually, I felt better my first two starts than tonight," Johnson said, adding that he "couldn't really find my rhythm" and was "effectively wild."

Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said Johnson is "amazing" but hasn't reached his peak.

"He's still learning. He's still getting better and better," Rodriguez said. "We haven't seen the best of J.J. That's my opinion. I think this year and next year and years to come, he's going to be the best pitcher in baseball. I can see that coming."

Freeman doubled down the line past third baseman Greg Dobbs. Rodriguez immediately went out to pull his ace after 109 pitches.

Rodriguez said he began worrying in the middle innings about Johnson's pitch count. He said he asked Johnson in the seventh inning if he wanted to keep pitching.

"He said 'I'm here for the team,' " Rodriguez said.

Would Johnson have remained in the game for the ninth if he still had the no-hitter?

"I would say yes," Rodriguez said before adding his decision would have been based on the effort Johnson needed to finish the eighth.

Freeman's hit relieved Rodriguez of a potentially difficult decision.

Chipper Jones hit a home run in the ninth off Randy Choate for the Braves' only other hit. The home run gave Jones 1,500 RBI for his career.

Johnson came close to a no-hitter in the Marlins' opener, blanking the Mets until Willie Harris led off the seventh inning with a double.

Jones predicted Johnson's no-hitter will come.

"That guy is some kind of kid," Jones said. "He's going to have his day. I'm just glad it wasn't today."

Johnson surprised Jones and the Braves with his new curveball. Jones was happy to take a first-inning walk when he had his first look at the new pitch.

"I thought, 'Oh, OK, he's got a curveball now,' " Jones said. "I hope he doesn't throw that to me too many times."

Braves first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez, who managed the Marlins for 3½ seasons, also was impressed with Johnson's new look.

"He threw in a different wrinkle from what I've seen," Gonzalez said. "That's a sign of a good pitcher.

"He's gotten himself into a class, when you start naming top right-handers, he's up there."

Johnson said a no-hitter "isn't one of my goals" but added "if it happens, it's really special."

After taking a no-hitter into the seventh in his first start, the two-time All-Star who led the NL in ERA last year came even closer this time. With his pitch count rising, Johnson needed only eight pitches to retire the Braves in order in the seventh.

Martin Prado grounded back to Johnson to open the eighth before Freeman's double.

Johnson was trying for Florida's first no-hitter since Anibal Sanchez threw one against Arizona on Sept. 6, 2006. Al Leiter, Kevin Brown and A.J. Burnett also have pitched no-hitters for Florida.

Chris Coghlan had three hits, including a two-run single in a three-run second. Johnson contributed an RBI single and Logan Morrison hit his third home run.

Tim Hudson (2-1) gave up seven hits and five runs in six innings.

Attendance was 14,351, one day after the series opener drew only 13,856, the smallest in Turner Field history.

The Braves avoided being held hitless only a few days away from the one-year anniversary of Ubaldo Jimenez's no-hitter at Turner Field on April 17, 2010, in a 4-0 Colorado victory.

Coghlan led off the night with his team-leading sixth double but the Marlins didn't have another two-base hit, ending their streak of at least two doubles in 10 consecutive games.

Hanley Ramirez drove in Coghlan with a single up the middle. Coghlan added a two-run single in the second after Johnson drove in a run with a single, a hit that came after John Buck was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Morrison's homer in the third pushed the lead to 5-0.

The Braves' only baserunners through seven innings were walks by Jones in the first, Brian McCann in the fourth and Nate McLouth in the sixth.

Notes

  • Jones became only the third switch-hitter with 1,500 RBI, joining Eddie Murray (1,917) and Mickey Mantle (1,509).
  • Jones took a called third strike to end the sixth for his first strikeout of the season.
  • Coghlan hit a single in the seventh and, trying for his second double of the game, was thrown out at second by Prado from left field.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Marlins ace Josh Johnson retires 22 of the 26 batters he faces, and strikes out nine while allowing only one hit.  (US Presswire)
Marlins ace Josh Johnson retires 22 of the 26 batters he faces, and strikes out nine while allowing only one hit. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Florida

C. Coghlan
AB 4
R 1
H 3
HR 0
RBI 2
Florida

J. Johnson
IP 7.1
H 1
ER 0
BB 3
K 9
 

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Florida Marlins
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Chris Coghlan, CF4132000 .271
Omar Infante, 2B4000003 .222
Hanley Ramirez, SS3011102 .194
Mike Stanton, RF4000012 .222
    Scott Cousins, RF0000000 .125
Logan Morrison, LF4111001 .317
Gaby Sanchez, 1B4110010 .317
Greg Dobbs, 3B2110100 .500
   a- Donnie Murphy, PH-3B1000000 .148
John Buck, C3100101 .214
Josh Johnson, P3011010 .125
    Ryan Webb, P0000000 .000
    Randy Choate, P0000000 .000
Totals3258533  
a-fouled out for Dobbs in the 9th
Batting
2B - Chris Coghlan (6, Hudson)
HR - Logan Morrison (3, Hudson)
RBI - Chris Coghlan 2 (5), Hanley Ramirez (3), Logan Morrison (7), Josh Johnson (1)
Team LOB - 3
Florida Marlins
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Josh Johnson (W,2-0) 7.1100390 1.35
Ryan Webb 0.2000010 4.05
Randy Choate 1111021 3.38
Pitches-Strikes - Josh Johnson 109-71, Ryan Webb 7-6, Randy Choate 20-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Josh Johnson 9-4, Ryan Webb 1-0
Batters Faced - Josh Johnson 26, Ryan Webb 2, Randy Choate 4
Atlanta Braves
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Martin Prado, LF4000011 .275
Nate McLouth, CF3000120 .220
Chipper Jones, 3B3111111 .310
Brian McCann, C3000121 .326
Dan Uggla, 2B4000011 .152
Jason Heyward, RF3000010 .250
Alex Gonzalez, SS3000010 .233
Freddie Freeman, 1B3010010 .205
Tim Hudson, P1000010 .000
   a- Matt Young, PH1000000 .125
    Cristhian Martinez, P0000000 .000
   b- Eric Hinske, PH1000011 .000
    George Sherrill, P0000000 .000
Totals29121312  
a-grounded out for Hudson in the 6th
b-struck out for Cr. Martinez in the 8th
Batting
2B - Freddie Freeman (2, Johnson)
HR - Chipper Jones (1, Choate)
RBI - Chipper Jones (9)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Martin Prado 1
DP - A. Gonzalez-Uggla-Freeman, Uggla-A. Gonzalez-Freeman
Atlanta Braves
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Tim Hudson (L,2-1) 6755221 3.48
Cristhian Martinez 2100110 2.57
George Sherrill 1000000 6.75
IBB - Buck by Tim Hudson
WP - Tim Hudson (2)
Pitches-Strikes - Tim Hudson 82-53, Cristhian Martinez 21-13, George Sherrill 12-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Tim Hudson 12-3, Cristhian Martinez 1-2, George Sherrill 1-2
Batters Faced - Tim Hudson 26, Cristhian Martinez 6, George Sherrill 3
Game Information
Attendance - 14351
Game Time - 2:20
Temperature - 73
Umpires - Home - Mark Wegner, First Base - Chris Guccione, Second Base - Mike Winters, Third Base - Mike Everitt