Monday night’s series opener between the Marlins and Red Sox doesn’t have a catchy slogan yet.
But if it did an easy choice would be the Battle of the Josh’s — as in former Marlins ace Josh Beckett versus current Marlins ace Josh Johnson.
“It’s pretty cool,” Johnson said of the scheduled matchup. “He’s a postseason legend almost.”
Beckett, 32, wasn’t almost a postseason legend for the Marlins. He is a legend.
He was the World Series MVP in 2003 and almost single-handedly beat the Yankees, tossing a complete-game shutout on three days’ rest in the Game 6 clincher at Yankee Stadium. Before that, he helped the Marlins rally from a 3-1 series deficit against the Cubs, tossing a complete-game shutout in Game 5 of the NLCS and then four solid innings of relief in a Game 7 victory.
By the time Johnson first got called up to the big leagues in September 2005, Beckett was wrapping up his five-year run with the Marlins. Shortly after the season ended, the Marlins traded Beckett to the Red Sox along with Mike Lowell for Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. But before Beckett was traded, Johnson did get to spend some time with him on the field.
“He was pretty much the veteran guy here,” Johnson said. “So I pretty much followed him around to see what he was doing and did that.”
Beckett, the second overall pick by the Marlins in the 1999 draft, has never faced his former team in the regular season since being traded to Boston. He is 88-53 with a combined 4.04 ERA, 1,065 strikeouts and 316 walks and has been selected to the All-Star team three times since being acquired by the Red Sox. He was the ALCS MVP in 2007 and has won two more World Series rings with Boston.
Johnson said he is looking forward to the game. Big crowds are expected for all three games in the series.
“It should be fun,” Johnson said. “That’s what we want. The more people the better, even if some are Boston fans. Quite a few of them are going to be. That’s all right as long as we get a lot of people here. The atmosphere is going to be good.”
Johnson (3-4, 4.56 ERA) is coming off his best start of the season when he went a season-high 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 loss to the Braves. He’s 3-1 with a 4.04 ERA with 34 strikeouts and 13 walks since the beginning of May. The Marlins are 6-1 in those starts.
“You never really have it figured out. But you can take steps in the right direction,” Johnson said. “Last bullpen was good again. Hopefully, I’ll just continue that and take it into the next start.”
Although he was encouraged by Logan Morrison’s first three-hit game since April 15 on Sunday, manager Ozzie Guillen said the team’s No. 5 hitter has to show consistency.
“It’s a process,” Guillen said. “Baseball is about how long you can be good. It’s not just about one day. He has to put a few weeks together. We need him. We need him to protect [ Giancarlo] Stanton and hopefully stay there.
“When Gaby [ Sanchez] starts swinging the bat good and LoMo starts swinging the bat good, all of a sudden we have a better ballclub.”
Tuesday: Clay Buchholz Mark Buehrle
Wednesday: Felix Doubront Ricky Nolasco