After clinching a wild-card playoff spot the night before, the Braves didn’t have a lot at stake when they took the field Wednesday for a rematch against the Marlins.
Oh, they still had an outside shot at catching Washington atop the National League East. And they haven’t quite wrapped up home field advantage for the wild card game.
And yet, with most of the pressure off the Braves, Josh Johnson and the Marlins were unable to stop a losing skid that stretched to six consecutive defeats with a 3-0 setback at Turner Field. It was the 17th shutout loss — most in the majors — for the Marlins.
To say that the season has been a dismal one for the Marlins would be an understatement. But it has also been that way for Johnson, who has not been the dominant mound force that many thought he would be.
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With Wednesday’s loss, Johnson is now 8-14.
Only eight other pitchers in the majors have as many losses. And Johnson has lost more games this season alone than he did in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 combined when he went 36-13 overall.
“It’s not fun,” Johnson said.
Though he has delivered few performances that could be labeled a total blowup and his run support has been abysmal, Wednesday’s outing was typical of a lot of them. In fact, it was almost identical to his previous start when he lost a 3-0 decision to the Braves in Miami.
“It’s frustrating, but you can’t let it get to you,” Johnson said of the lack of run support.
The Braves scored only three runs off Johnson over his six innings on Wednesday, and one of those was unearned. But it was still a struggle for him. He walked five (one intentionally) and only 63 of his 112 total pitches were thrown for strikes.
The Marlins provided him zero offensive help, as Braves starter Paul Maholm proved more than they could handle. And over his past three starts, his support has consisted of just one total run.
Still, Johnson has lost seven of his past eight decisions dating to Aug. 9.
Given that Johnson is due to make $13.75 million next season in what will be the final year of his contract, there’s reason to believe the Marlins could try to trade him over the winter.
The Braves uncorked champagne Tuesday to celebrate their wild-card berth but showed no hangover effect. Martin Prado put Atlanta on top in the first with a solo shot off Johnson, and the Braves made it 2-0 on Prado’s RBI single in the third.
“He’s a good hitter,” Johnson said of Prado. “I don’t see how his numbers aren’t better than they are. It seems like every time he plays us, he hits the ball all over the field.”
The Marlins, meanwhile, were flat at the plate.
Maholm permitted them only two decent scoring chances in both the first and second innings, but the Marlins could make nothing of either.
The Braves scored their final run after Dan Uggla reached on a Gil Velazquez throwing error in the sixth and ended up scoring from third on a high throw that clipped off the top of catcher John Buck’s mitt. Since Uggla was moving down the line on the pitch, he was credited with a steal of home.
Buck struck out in each of his four at bats.
Craig Kimbrel closed out the victory by striking out four batters in the ninth.