Baseball

Johnson sends Padres his best

Miami - Pitching in a laugher, Josh Johnson never changed expression.

Even after driving in three runs and reaching base with his third single, Johnson remained impassive. When he received a big ovation walking to the dugout after eight innings, he kept his head down.

Only when Johnson completed a three-hitter did he show emotion, punching the air to punctuate his 12th strikeout as the Florida Marlins beat the San Diego Padres, 10-1, on Monday.

Johnson (2-1), who signed a $39 million, four-year contract in January, pitched past the sixth inning for the first time in five starts this season.

“It felt good to finally get in that rhythm and find that tempo,” he said. “It has been a long time coming. I felt it when I was playing catch in the outfield before the game. I was like, ‘Whoa, here we go. Things were starting to click.’ I figured it would be a good day.”

Johnson’s strikeout total was a career high, and the three-hitter was a personal best. He walked one and threw 117 pitches in his fourth career complete game, his first since June 14, 2009.

His first strikeout came against the second batter he faced, David Eckstein.

“That’s when I knew he had something special,” catcher John Baker said. “Eckstein never strikes out.”

Johnson’s fastball topped out at 98 mph, and he mixed in effective sliders and – especially late in the game – his change-up. Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said it was as good as he has seen Johnson throw.

“It’s not easy to pitch with that big of a lead,” Gonzalez said. “Pitchers have a tendency to lose their concentration in those situations, and he didn’t.”

Dan Uggla homered and drove in three runs, while Hanley Ramirez also connected. And Johnson helped himself, matching a career high with three RBI.

His teammates’ reaction?

“We were just laughing at him,” Baker said.

Johnson singled home a run in the second, added a two-run single in the third and finished 3-for-4.

“It’s fun, but pitching is way better,” he said.

San Diego’s only run came on a sacrifice fly by pinch-hitter Matt Stairs in the eighth to score Nick Hundley, who had doubled.

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