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Johnson Overpowers Dodgers

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After giving up four runs in five innings to the New York Mets on opening day, Florida Marlins’ starter Josh Johnson (9-3) had not given up more than three runs in his other 16 starts and lasted at least six innings in his last 15 starts. The All Star pitcher displayed his full arsenal of blazing hot fastballs, sliders and change-ups against the Dodgers confounding them to a 4-0 loss.

“He’s one of the premiere pitchers in the league as far as I’m concerned,” Dodgers’ manager Joe Torre said of Johnson. “We had a couple of mild things going on but nothing really serious. He dominated tonight.”

Dodgers’ starter Hiroki Kuroda (7-7), seemingly unable to put his last start behind him where he gave up six runs in 1 2/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, had a nightmare second inning.

After back-to-back singles by Jorge Cantu and Dan Uggla to lead off the second inning, Cody Ross lined a double just out of the reach of second baseman Blake DeWitt that went to the wall out in right centerfield scoring Cantu. After Ronny Paulino grounded back to the box, Mike Stanton blasted a slider that hung over the middle of the plate into a glove. Unfortunately that glove was a catcher’s mitt in a bag in the Dodgers’ bullpen for the three-run homer and the Marlins 4-0 lead.

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“It stayed up a little bit,” Kuroda said of the slider Stanton crushed.

Torre was impressed with Stanton who knocked two homers and six RBI during the series.

“This kid looks like he has a big upside,” Torre remarked. “The last two days he hurt us with hanging breaking balls. That was really the difference tonight.”

Those four runs were more than enough for Johnson to shut down the Dodgers.

“That’s the type of pitcher that knows what to do with the lead,” Torre said. “What really hurt us was giving them a handful early.”

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“That’s part of baseball,” Kuroda said through translator Kenji Nimura about that second inning. “You have one bad inning, and that one bad inning is one too many against a pitcher like [Johnson.]”

The Dodgers did their best to get to Johnson to no avail. Andre Ethier broke up the perfect game with two outs in the fourth with a single. Loney hit a single to advance Ethier to third base, but Casey Blake was overpowered by Johnson’s 96 mph fastball and struck out.

“He had a good day,” Furcal said of Johnson. “Today he mixed his stuff. He hit the corners when he had to. When he was down in the count, he made the perfect pitch.”

Despite the four-run second inning Kuroda was able to limit the damage to just that second inning, though the fourth inning looked hair-raising for him also. After giving up a lead-off single to Uggla, Kuroda threw the ball away on a pick-off attempt of Uggla at first allowing Uggla to advance to second. After Ross flied out to right field, Paulino got on first base thanks to a high throw from shortstop Rafael Furcal to first base that forced James Loney off the bag sending Ross to third.

Kuroda bore down and got Stanton to line out to Furcal and Johnson to ground into a fielders’ choice to second base to get out of the jam.

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In his other five innings of work Kuroda limited the Marlins to no more than one base runner, however that wasn’t enough to get the job done.

“It was big that I was able to recover like that,” Kuroda said. “But when you lose like that it’s really hard to be satisfied with anything you do afterwards.”

The Dodgers did get to the Marlins’ bullpen, however it was in the bottom of the ninth. As desperation set in the Dodgers limped out easily to reliever Jose Veras.

The Dodgers were shut out for the ninth time this season and lost the season series to Florida (2-4) for the first time since 2007. Furcal went 0-for-4 in the game ending his Los Angeles Dodgers’ record 12-game run streak and his 10-game hitting streak.

Johnson also leads all National League starters with a 1.70 ERA. Since May 13 he is 6-2 with a 0.80 ERA in 11 starts.