What if J.J. had a no-no going?
Had history been on the line, what would Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez have done?
The question is moot since Josh Johnson’s no-hit bid was spoiled with two outs in the seventh inning on Friday night. On Johnson’s 98th pitch, Colorado’s Garrett Atkins crushed a 3-2 fastball over the wall in left field for a home run.
Johnson exited after 7 1/3 innings, allowing one run on one hit with a career-high 11 strikeouts.
Because Johnson has battled back from Tommy John surgery in August 2007, and he has never thrown more than 119 pitches in a game, Gonzalez was wrestling with what to do had the no-hit bid continued.
Gonzalez said on Saturday that he would have let his 25-year-old ace go for the no-hitter, barring his pitch count escalated well beyond 120 pitches.
“But what is it? This [was] going to be the most pitches he’s ever thrown,” Gonzalez said. “This is the most innings he’s ever pitched in a year.”
The irony is, during Atkins’ at-bat, Gonzalez turned to pitching coach Mark Wiley and discussed how deep to go with Johnson. With an off day on Monday, Johnson will get an extra day off before his next, which will be Friday at Atlanta.
Gonzalez asked Wiley if Johnson could possibly be given a second day of rest, meaning he could have been pushed to Saturday in Atlanta.
“I might have jinxed him,” Gonzalez said. “You never talk about no-hitters, and stuff like that. But that was going through my mind. I was looking at the pitch count. I was going to let him try to go out and do whatever he was going to do, as long as there wasn’t an injury risk.
“I don’t think I was going to let him go out and throw 148 pitches just to get him the no-hitter. We’ve got to think of his future, and our future, but we were going to give him an opportunity. I would have had three guys warming up. It’s touchy. It really is.”
Gonzalez said after the sixth inning, he thought Johnson had a chance to post the fifth no-hitter in franchise history, and first since Anibal Sanchez in 2006.
“The way he was pitching, I turned around and asked Mark, ‘He’s got an extra day, right?’ ” Gonzalez said. “I was thinking to myself, we could even push him back two days. He said, ‘Yeah, we can do that.’ Then, bam! Home run. I mean, just like that. I said, ‘I jinxed him.’ “
The coaches told Gonzalez the question had to be asked. If there were no off days, then he would have been in line to pitch on Thursday at Houston. That could have been a factor.
Johnson said on Saturday the last time he threw a no-hitter was when he was either 15 or 16 pitching for the Upper Deck Cougars, a Chicago-based travel team. It was at a CABA tournament against Michigan.
“It was the first game of the World Series, and I threw a no-hitter against Michigan,” Johnson said.
Johnson played more than 150 games a summer when he was growing up. He was part of travel, tournament teams that played around the country. He remembers at age 12 striking out 16 in a game. The opposing pitcher that day was Kyle Davies, from the Atlanta area. Davies struck out 18.
Gonzalez added on Saturday that he wasn’t “relieved” that Johnson surrendered a hit so he wouldn’t have to make a tough decision on whether to leave his ace in the game.
“When those guys are doing special stuff, you’re out there with them,” Gonzalez said. “You want him to do it. I’m never going to say, ‘I’m glad that happened because I don’t have to make a decision.’ I make plenty of decisions.”
Gonzalez joked that if Johnson had a no-hitter going in the ninth, and the pitch count was well of 130, that he may have sent bench coach Carlos Tosca out of the mound to make the pitching change.
– Joe Frisaro