The Washington Nationals did everything to thwart Marlins
ace Josh Johnson this past Saturday. They made him throw 30 pitches in the first
inning before he could record his first out. They brought in Stephen Strasburg
the previous night to throw some rookie-phenom mojo at him. They even trotted
out Livan Hernandez (remember that guy?) to face him Saturday. But nothing,
not even a swarm of bees, could stop JJ from pummeling batters' OBP's with yet another masterful performance.
A Ronnie Paulino single in the second that scored Dan Uggla and
Jorge Cantu would be all the Fish needed all night. JJ took it from there. Johnson mowed down seven, walked none, and
completely emasculated a Washington lineup that made him throw 109 pitches in
six innings, but failed to bring a single runner home. Washington finished the night 0-9 in the
RISP department, courtesy of JJ and his uncanny ability to make even the greatest
hitters in Major League Baseball look like Goofy on acid. The Nationals' best hitters -- Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn -- went a combined 0-7 with runners in scoring position. And all of this was on a
night when Josh Johnson was supposedly "off" his game.
Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez said
Johnson's 29 pitches thrown at last week's All-Star appearance screwed with his
command. But bad command or not, Johnson has been tearing ass through the league
at a serious clip all season long, earning a 10-3 record on an otherwise
mediocre ball club and lowering his ERA to a league-leading 1.62, the sixth-lowest ERA after 19 starts in 40 years. Those are the kinds of numbers that put
one in Pedro Martinez/Greg Maddux territory and lead to Cy Young awards.
There's an entire second half of baseball left to be played,
and Johnson's history suggests he won't keep up his dominance. But as
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evidenced by his first start of the second half Saturday, JJ's first order
of business is to continue kicking ass and taking names and then stapling those
names on batters' foreheads as they shamefully walk back to their respective
dugouts. It's pretty much all he knows how to do.