If Josh Johnson had pitched half as spectacularly in his previous outing as he Friday, there’s a very good chance he might not still be a Marlin. But he didn’t and Ozzie Guillen, for one, is thankful he can continue sending him out to the mound.
With Johnson working some of his old magic, the Marlins gained a split of their doubleheader with the Washington Nationals, taking the second game 5-2 after dropping the first, 7-4.
But Friday’s victory likely came at a high cost.
Emilio Bonifacio reinjured his left hand while diving for a ball in the ninth inning, and Guillen fears he’ll be lost for the season.
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“Even when we win, it’s a very bad day for us — for me,” Guillen said. “Losing Boni again puts us in a very, very tough situation. You could see a lot of long faces.’’
Bonifacio, who spent two months on the disabled list this season with a ligament injury to his left thumb, sprained the same thumb with two outs in the ninth while making a diving stop. He came out of the game immediately.
“I don’t think he’s coming back this year,” Guillen said. “I hope so, but in my mind he’s gone.’’
The injury dulled what was an otherwise spectacular outing by Johnson.
Friday’s sparkling effort was in stark contrast to his last previous outing when, with more than a dozen scouts in attendance on the eve of the trading deadline, Johnson turned in a stinker. He walked a career-high six batters in just five innings, prompting negative reviews and no trade.
He was a different pitcher at Nationals Park.
Johnson not only handed the Marlins’ overtaxed bullpen a much-deserved rest by becoming the first member of the starting staff to go as many as six innings since July 23 — 11 games ago — but came to the rescue on a day when game one starter Brad Hand was lifted in the fourth.
That prompted Guillen to tell reporters between games that he was hoping for someone — anyone — to give him at least three innings on the mound.
Johnson did better than that. He came within one out of his first complete game since April 26, 2010, and what would have been the team’s second this season. Carlos Zambrano, now relegated to the bullpen, went the distance on May 7.
“I was throwing it to both sides of the plate for strikes,” Johnson said. “My tempo was the best it’s been all year. Finally felt that rhythm, everything was clicking.”
After allowing a run in the first, Johnson went into shutdown mode, holding the Nationals scoreless all the way to the ninth when he gave up an infield hit to Michael Morse that scored Bryce Harper. It was on that play that Bonifacio injured his hand while making a diving stop on the play to keep the ball from going to the outfield.
Steve Cishek entered to close out the victory for Johnson, who finished with nine strikeouts and no walks. He threw 115 pitches, one shy of his season-high.
The Marlins’ offense finally showed some life, and doing so against one of the best pitchers in the National League in Gio Gonzalez. And it was Johnson who got things going with his one-out single in the sixth. One out later, the Marlins strung together four consecutive singles, resulting in three runs.
Carlos Lee drove in two of those with his bases-loaded single up the middle, and Greg Dobbs made it 3-1 with his single. The Marlins scored again in the eighth when Jose Reyes utilized his speed, scoring from second on a routine ground ball to short. Reyes, who was running on the pitch, never slowed down as Nationals shortstop Danny Espinosa took his time throwing to first, and Reyes crossed home plate well ahead of the throw from Adam LaRoche.
Reyes extended his hitting streak to a career-high 22 games with a pair of first-inning bunt singles, one in each of the two games. The 22-game streak is the longest of his career, and the longest this season in the National League. It is also the longest by a Marlin since Bonifacio’s 26-game streak last season.
The Marlins didn’t fare as well in the first game of the doubleheader.
Hand, who was called up from Triple A New Orleans for just the one start, couldn’t find the strike zone, walked six batters and was lifted two outs into the fourth. Hand threw a total of 96 pitches and was promptly optioned back to the minors following the outing.